Marcia and Mas Hashimoto are shown in their Watsonville home Tuesday as they discuss the upcoming 75th anniversary of executive order 9066 that sent scores of Japanese Americans to incarceration camps.
Candlelight vigil to commemorate Japanese incarceration during WWII
WATSONVILLE — It has been three quarters of a century since the United States military forcibly removed thousands of Japanese-Americans from their homes, and held them without cause in incarceration camps throughout the country.
To mark the occasion, the City of Watsonville is holding a candlelight vigil on Sunday in Watsonville Plaza.
In Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties, more than 3,600 Japanese-Americans were forced to the Salinas Assembly Center before being shipped to an incarceration camp in Poston, Ariz.
In all, some 120,000 people were detained without cause across the U.S.
“My prisoner number was 12524 D,” said Watsonville resident Mas Hashimoto, who was 6 when he was removed from his home with his family and imprisoned in the Poston camp. He was there until he was 10.
The forced relocation was authorized in an executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, and came in the wake of the bombing attack by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor.
The attack plunged the United States into World War II and spawned widespread racism and xenophobia against Japanese citizens of the U.S.
A separate executive order created the War Relocation Authority, the agency that carried out the forced removals and incarcerations.
Since few Japanese people lived in the U.S., many believed the stereotypes they saw in the media, and became wary and suspicious, Hashimoto said.
Worse, no national organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the move, he said.
“When the executive order came out, the nation as a whole approved,” Hashimoto said. “It was a frightful time.”
Even when they were allowed to return to their homes, the Japanese families found lingering racism and a petition drive to ship them to Japan, Hashimoto said.
Hashimoto, who taught at Watsonville High School for 36 years, now speaks about Civil Rights at high schools.
Sunday’s vigil comes at a time when newly inaugurated President Donald Trump is writing his own executive orders, the most noteworthy of which would ban people from seven countries from entering the U.S. A federal court stayed that order, but Trump’s vow to build a wall along the southern border, and to increase immigration raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants, appear to be moving along.
Hashimoto said Trump’s executive orders, and the current attitude of the country, are very different from those during World War II.
Today, Trump’s orders have garnered protests across the globe, Marcia Hashimoto said.
“Today, there is support from all over the world,” she said.
Still, the vigil will offer more than a chance to observe the 75th anniversary of a dark time in American history, she said.
“It’s an opportune time to educate people that this happened, and that we can’t allow it to happen again,” she said. “It’s important that we stand up to injustices. In those days, no one stood up.”
The Day of Remembrance candlelight vigil is scheduled for Sunday at 5 p.m. in Watsonville Plaza.
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