A “Day of Remembrance” occurred at Sebastopol’s Enmanji Buddhist Temple on February 18. Around 200 people marked the 75th anniversary of the incarceration of over 120,000 innocent West Coast Americans of Japanese ancestry in internment camps during World War II.
“They were accused of a crime, sentenced without trial and locked up,” wrote organizer Jodi Hottel. “(We) hope this reminder of the fragility of our civil liberties will prevent anything like this from happening again.”
“We are firm in our resolve that this will never happen again,” declared Marie Sugiyama, now 81. She was interned and opened the panel of six speakers of diverse ethnicities. “A great injustice was done to Americans.”
No Japanese American was ever tried for being a spy. The internment was based on racist fears and lies, which the new president continues to propagate, especially against immigrants and Muslims. “We have an important task — to protect civil rights,” declared African American attorney Charles Bonner. He detailed three ways to do so: direct action, legal action, and legislative action.
“Our community is experiencing real fear,” said panelist Denia Candela, who emigrated from Mexico. Added 66-year-old Native American public health administrator Cecilia Dawson, “Mother Earth feels what we are going through. She’s shaking and saying ‘Wake Up!’”
“I tremble about what this administration might do,” said Mubarack Muthalif of the Islamic Center of North Marin. “The Muslim registry is like the Nazis making Jews wear the star of David.”
“How many of you are willing to break a law to protect a Muslim, immigrant, or other threatened person?” asked David Hoffman of the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County from the audience. Attorney Bonner responded, “Any unjust law needs to be broken. We have to organize. When we do so, Trump will fall. We have to resist with love and compassion. Like hornets, if they attack one of us, we need to swarm.”
Dr. Shepherd Bliss, Sebastopol