RABBIT RAMBLINGS: It’s time for ‘active resistance’

Editor’s Note: According to news reports published in late July, plans to imprison migrant children at the Fort Sill military base in Oklahoma have been put on hold.

bioline_Chizu Omori

Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I was wondering where that was. When word came that a protest was being planned at that place, I hesitated about participating. But the thing that caught my attention was that Fort Sill, soon to be another detention facility for 1,400 children of migrants, had been a former prison for 700 American Japanese during World War II. Some news articles also mentioned that even earlier, Fort Sill had held a band of Apaches under the leadership of Geronimo, and that it also was the site of one of those infamous boarding schools for Native American children that the government had created to “Americanize” them.

This entailed separating the children from their families and keeping them from speaking their native languages and attempting to destroy their cultures.

Well, that did it. Today, here was another instance of our government mistreating and separating families again, and I had to go there to express my anger and outrage. Most of these migrants are fleeing grim lives of terror and poverty. What seems to be motivating the government is a cynical policy to discourage people from coming, to treat them so badly that they’ll give up on trying to get into our country. But what we’ve seen of the degradation and squalor is inhumane, and we cannot passively watch while this is going on. The moment that we’re now in calls for active resistance.

This was an opportunity to use my history, our history, to take a stand. It was a way to highlight what we went through and that we had learned something from having been incarcerated ourselves.

With only a little over a week to plan and make the arrangements to gather in Lawton, the town near Fort Sill, we packed our folded cranes, our posters, our banners, and showed up on Saturday, June 22, in front of the gate at the fort. I was just a foot soldier, so to speak, and we had brilliant leadership from Satsuki Ina, Nancy Ukai and Mike Ishii, along with many others who pitched in.

The night before, we were told that permission to hold a press conference and the protest in front of the fort had been denied. So, the possibility of our getting arrested came up. That did not particularly bother me. The local ACLU would be there to bail us out, and if it meant a day or so in jail, that was OK with me.

The amazing thing was the presence of so much media at Fort Sill. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, local TV stations and newspaper reporters were there to cover us. A national TV news show, Democracy Now, had a crew covering the event. At least we were going to be well covered by national media.

We did get yelled at by an army officer who tried to force us to leave and hold our protest across the street. After a confrontation, he backed down and we completed the press conference. Then we went on to a park where the major demonstration was held. Hundreds of people showed up and for me, the wonder of the gathering was the number of organizations that were represented.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) came to help out in case there was disruption and trouble. The Oklahoma ACLU was there to monitor the event, Other Native Americans spoke, of family members who were forced to go to the Fort Sill boarding school. A Black Lives Matter member emphasized the racist underpinnings of so much government policy, of the “egregious and heinous acts” committed on peoples of color. The Council on American Islamic Relations was represented, undocumented individuals, and just plain folk showed up. It seemed to me that here was an issue that unified us, that there are many who are upset and horrified by what our government is doing, and wanted an avenue to express their feelings.

I was so gratified by such diversity within the crowd. It gave me hope that we can fight this, and that we can form coalitions and movements to try to change things. And we American Japanese can be in the forefront of this fight. We need to stop repeating history and also show our support and solidarity with these incarcerated families. What is happening is wrong, these camps should be closed, and we need to say that loud and clearly.

If there ever was a moment where we can make a difference, I think this is it.

Chizu Omori, of Oakland, is co-producer of the award-winning film “Rabbit in the Moon.” She can be reached at chizuomori@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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