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“We have known that the Northwest Detention Center is egregious in its violation of human rights and its horrific treatment of human beings. It is now deadly.”  

– Stan Shikuma, Co-chair of Child and Family Detention Campaign, Tsuru for Solidarity

This March, Tsuru for Solidarity organized our largest and longest direct action as part of a shutdown fight to close the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. We have deepened our 5 year partnership with La Resistencia to co-lead this fight in response to the tragic death of Charles Leo Daniel inside the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) while in solitary confinement. During this action, Tsuru for Solidarity stepped fully into our commitment to La Resistencia to live out our values of solidarity – to be the allies our people needed in 1942 – and to back an organization led by immigrant women who have been targeted by ICE and the immigration detention system and who organize directly with those currently incarcerated at NWDC. 

Tsuru and La Resistencia organized a three and a half week long encampment outside NWDC to mourn the death of Charles Leo Daniel, to support the hundreds of hunger stickers inside, and protest the horrific conditions. By physically being at the detention center at all hours of the day and night, we observed ICE and GEO and successfully exposed their failure to respond morally to multiple crises as they erupted inside NWDC. 

We have confirmed at least 6 additional suicide attempts inside NWDC since the death of Charles Leo Daniel in addition to multiple medical emergencies and a five alarm fire inside the detention site during which detainees were forced back into a burning building. (Tsuru staff were the ones who called the fire department.) We have documented and believe that ICE and GEO are now conducting mass transfers, deportations, and releases of witnesses of the attempted suicides. We have exposed their inability to handle crises and their efforts to avoid accountability. 

News of our encampment and hunger strike reached those detained inside. In the face of hopelessness, fear and violence inside NWDC, people detained regularly reported that the encampment inspired them to continue organizing for their freedom and to combat the dangerous conditions they live in. At one point, over 300 people detained inside NWDC went on hunger strike including units that have never done so. All of these people faced retaliation from GEO guards and staff for their resistance.

In solidarity with those on hunger strike inside NWDC and in remembrance of Japanese Americans who similarly went on hunger strikes inside the Tule Lake stockade to fight for their human rights, Tsuru members and staff went on hunger strike at the encampment outside NWDC to bring attention to the crisis. For perhaps the first time since the hunger strikes inside Tule Lake Segregation Center, 8 Japanese Americans (Linda Ando, Becca Asaki, Kiku Hughes, Clinton Huey, Mike Ishii, Lynda Joko, Stan Shikuma and Yoshiko Yeto) joined those in La Resistencia to go on hunger strike over the course of 3 weeks. Tsuru member, Keiko Kubo, handmade hapi coats adorned with Buddhist/Daoist talismans embroidered in the sashiko style for those on indefinite hunger strikes to fortify them and offer protection. 

Tsuru for Solidarity leaders in the Seattle area stepped up in a monumental way to make this encampment happen. In just the second week, nearly 40 Seattle members and volunteers they brought down spent over 600 hours running the encampment. Members brought food, set up tents and organized a communications station, led security for the encampment, led observation teams to monitor the activities of ICE and GEO, performed ceremonies for daily vigils, and led healing circles. Their tone of determination, care and inclusivity created a powerful foundation for the community that has evolved around the resistance encampment.

In the face of extreme violence inside NWDC, we have built something fundamentally different on the outside. We shared food, we made art, we mourned together, we celebrated people’s freedom together, we created ceremonial space together. We built the beloved community. People return day after day not only because of our commitment and deepening sense of family with La Resistencia but also due to a deepening sense of spiritual connection to those incarcerated inside.  

In our vision for Healing Justice, we bring our bodies to the front line. We disrupt the oppressive systems that target communities of color while simultaneously creating transformative spaces through ritual, art and healing circles. This work was embodied in the encampment and hunger strike outside NWDC.

We made huge strides in demonstrating what is possible in the fight to shut down NWDC. We also know that the fight is not over. This Sunday marks the one month anniversary of Charles Leo Daniel’s death. Washington state’s Congressional delegation must join us in taking action to call for accountability, end harmful practices like solitary confinement, and to shut down this detention site for good