‘Close the Camps!’: Protesters March Against Trump’s Plan to Imprison Migrant Kids at Site of Japanese, Indigenous Incarceration

Fort Sill was the site of one of the nation’s Japanese American internment camps during World War II, decades after it was the site of imprisoned native communities

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-20-2019

Immigrant rights advocates marched to Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma on Saturday, July 20, 2019. (Photo: United We Dream via Twitter)

Hundreds of activists rallied in over 100° heat in Lawton, Oklahoma on Saturday to demand the Trump administration stop the incarceration of asylum-seeking children.

“Close the camps!” the crowd of protesters shouted on their march to Fort Sill.

While the broad array of groups behind the action, including United We Dream, have voiced outrage over the detention camps broadly, the administration’s plan to recycle Fort Sill as a detention site for roughly 1,400 migrant children currently at Customs and Border Patrol facilities in Texas—as soon as next month—has generated specific concerns given military post’s history, spurring several protests already.

As the Close the Camps website says in call-to-action,

Fort Sill is the same place where 700 Japanese Americans were detained and tortured during World War II. This is the same location where indigenous people of the Apache nation were imprisoned, and separated from their families while generations of indigenous youth were forced to assimilate at the fort’s boarding school.

Writer and law professor Mari Matsuda recently wrote of the site’s dark past well, noting,

“This is not who we are” is belied by the history of the military base. Located on the plains to impose order in a time of settler ascendency, Fort Sill presided over the displacement of native people. The great Apache chief Geronimo and families from his tribe were imprisoned for years at Fort Sill—the first instance of child incarceration there.

“Fort Sill is not an anomaly, but it is a reminder of the ongoing violences of settler colonialism, racism, and xenophobia that have defined far too much of our nation’s history,” Densho, an organization that fosters education about the WWII internment camps, said last week.

“We must stop repeating history,” said the ACLU of Oklahoma in a tweet promoting Saturday’s action.

The protesters also focused on Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican. They are demanding he stop enabling Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and get ICE out of Oklahoma, according to a press statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“Now we see our speaking up is not enough,” Tom Ikeda, executive director of Densho, said recently. “We have to start going to the streets.”

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