Fort Sill migrant detention site on hold

Following two public protests that garnered national media coverage, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe announced that plans to use Fort Sill to detain migrant children will be put on hold.

BUDDHIST PROTEST OF MIGRANT DETENTION SITE — Rev Duncan Williams and Rev. Egyoku Nakao. photo by Linda Morris

Inhofe said it is not known when or if Fort Sill will be used. Earlier this year, the Trump administration said it expected to confine 1,600 asylum-seeking children at Fort Sill, which has a long history of imprisoning people of color.

During World War II, Fort Sill held 700 Japanese immigrants. Prior to this, Fort Sill imprisoned different indigenous tribes, including Comanches and Apaches.

In June, Tsuru for Solidarity members, which included six Nikkei who were World War II camp survivors, staged a protest outside Fort Sill. This was followed by a rally where more than 200 people participated.

A second protest rally was organized by Dream Action Oklahoma on July 20, where DAO estimated that close to 1,000 people were involved. Some who participated were descendants of the Trail of Tears.

Tsuru for Solidarity members and a delegation of Buddhist priests, spearheaded by the Rev. Duncan Ryūken Williams, were among those at the second protest rally.

Protesters braved the over 100-degree heat and closed down the street, leading into Fort Sill. Unlike the heavy-handed tactics taken by the Fort Sill military police on June 22, there were no visible military police or Lawton police officer presence at this protest.

Following a Buddhist memorial service, Williams placed leis, sent from the Oshima family, on a field artillery display in front of Fort Sill and paid his respects.

During World War II, Kanesaburo Oshima, who had been detained at Fort Sill without charge, was one of three men killed there. Before the war, Oshima had been a prominent businessman in Kona, Hawai‘i and had been picked up by the FBI shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

At Fort Sill, Oshima had experienced a mental breakdown and attempted to climb the fence when he was shot and killed by a guard.

At the rally, Mike Ishii, one of the co-founders of Tsuru for Solidarity, said, “This is nothing. If you bring the children here, every one of us represent thousands and thousands of people back home. And we will come back. You haven’t seen anything yet.”

Tsuru for Solidarity members who participated in the rally included Ishii, Lauren Sumida, Linda Morris, Carl Takei and Becca Asaki.

Williams was able to organize a Sangha Support Group comprised of 129 Buddhist priests and lay persons, guided by a seven-member steering committee.

Buddhist priests who were able to attend the Fort Sill rally included:

• Rev. Duncan Ryūken Williams, committee chair and author of “American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War”
• Rev. William Briones — Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (Nishi Hongwangi)
• Rev. Ryuji Hayashi — Koyasan Beikoku Betsuin of Los Angeles
• Rev. Shumyo Kojima — Zenshuji Soto Mission
• Rev. Myozen Joan Amaral — Zen Center North Shore
• Rev. Gyokuko Carlson — Dharma Rain Zen Center
• Rev. Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts — Senior Dharma Teacher, San Francisco Zen Center
• Rev. Zenshin Greg Fain — Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
• Jitsujo Tina Gauthier — ZCLA
• Rev. Jisan Tova Green — San Francisco Zen Center
• Rev. Gesshin Greenwood — Institute of Buddhist Studies & Empty Moon Zen Sangha
• Juliet Hwang — Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism
• Rev. Michael Mui Lewis — Great Mountain Zen Center
• Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao — Zen Center of Los Angeles
• Stephen Nakasone — Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple board member
• Judy Nakatomi — Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism
• Kenley Neufeld — Dharmacharya, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism
• Rev. Inryu Bobbi Ponce-Barger — All Beings Sangha
• Rev. Tenku Ruff — president, Soto Zen Buddhist Association
• Kairen Eric Russell
• Roshi Grace Schireson — Shogaku Zen Institute

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