February 27, 2020

Despite torrential rains in Tacoma this weekend, Tsuru for Solidarity supporters showed up in droves to raise their voices in opposition to immigrant detention. They gathered outside the Northwest Detention Center, where up to 1,500 individuals at a time are held as they await the outcomes of their immigration trials. Sometimes that wait last years in this for-profit facility where detainees have staged hunger strikes to protest the poor quality of medical care and food and inadequate access to legal support.

Densho worked closely with the Seattle chapter of Tsuru for Solidarity, as well as Seattle JACL, and La Resistencia in order to stage this action. Over the past several years, our Day of Remembrance commemorations have leaned increasingly more in the direction of activism. Asked about this trend, Densho Executive Director Tom Ikeda said:

“We’re a history organization first and foremost, but we can’t just sit idly by and watch other groups get targeted like we were during WWII. That’s why it’s been so important for Densho to get behind the Tsuru for Solidarity movement, and this action in Tacoma was another major step forward in deepening our commitment to standing up for immigrant rights today. I was so heartened to see the hundreds of people who showed up to take that step with us.”

As we celebrate this weekend’s incredible show of solidarity, we encourage our community to commit to carrying that solidarity forward. Follow and get plugged into the work of groups like La Resistencia and Detention Watch Network; and join us this June in DC for Tsuru for Solidarity’s National Pilgrimage to Close the Camps.

Protesters gather outside the Northwest Detention Center. They carried tsuru and signs calling for an end to immigrant incarceration and separation. Photo by Ryan Kozu.
For months, Tsuru for Solidarity supporters from around the state have held fold-ins to prepare strings of tsuru as symbols of solidarity and support. Volunteers weather-proofed them in preparation for Sunday’s downpours. Photo by Eugene Tagawa.
The crowd ranged in age from infants to 90-something-year-old survivors of WWII incarceration. “We’re trying to mobilize folks who haven’t been mobilized before,” Seattle JACL president Stanley Shikuma told KNKX reporter Simone Alicea. Photo by Ryan Kozu.
Members of the Regional Taiko Group marked the start of the program and echoed the crowds as they raised their voices in chants of protest. Photo by Ryan Kozu.
Event emcee and co-organizer Stanley Shikuma and Connie McCloud, Culture Director for the Puyallup Tribe. McCloud started the event with a blessing and by recounting her tribe’s forced removal from the land now occupied by NWDC. Photo by Glenn Nelson.
Organizer Maru Mora-Villalpando co-founded the group La Resistencia, which has been fighting to get the NWDC shut down since 2014. “It’s shiny and it’s horrible. Paint it whatever color you want, put whatever mattresses you want to put inside; it’s still a cage. We don’t want better conditions, we don’t want reforms, we don’t want it painted gold — we want it shut down.” Photo by Eugene Tagawa.
Despite the wet and blustery weather, some 400 people turned out. Event co-organizer Stanley Shikuma says it was “the largest Asian American protest action outside of Seattle in Washington state in decades — maybe since the first Day of Remembrance in Puyallup in 1978.” Photo by Glenn Nelson.
Photo by Eugene Tagawa.
Tsuru for Solidarity co-founder Satsuki Ina addressed the crowds. Photo by Ryan Kozu.
Survivors and descendants of WWII concentration camps gathered for a Remembrance Ceremony adapted from an event that has been part of the New York Day of Remembrance commemoration for decades. Homer Yasui (pictured here with the Tule Lake placard, representing the camp where he was incarcerated during WWII) told his granddaughter Mari Hayman for HuffPost, “I want more people to get involved. Stand up, do something! Be counted. Help us.” Photo by Mari Hayman.
After acknowledging the WWII camps and contemporary detention sites, members of the crowd were invited to call out the names of loved ones with ties to the camps that they wanted to honor. Photo by Glenn Nelson.
Musician Kishi Bashi traveled to Tacoma from Athens, Georgia to perform on Sunday. “This was the first time I had ever performed at a protest, and it won’t be the last.” He is pictured here with Tsuru for Solidarity co-founder Mike Ishii during a spoken word collaboration. Photo by Mari Hayman.
After the formal program, a delegation from Tsuru for Solidarity and La Resistencia delivered a letter to GEO Group, the company that operates NWDC as a for-profit prison, calling for humane treatment of people incarcerated inside the facility and the ultimate shutdown of NWDC. Guards threatened to call the police when demonstrators asked to deliver the letter to the warden. Photo by La Resistencia.
After this first major action in the Pacific Northwest, Tsuru for Solidarity will continue supporting regional efforts while also planning national actions, including the National Pilgrimage to Close the Camps in Washington DC, June 5-7, 2020. La Resistencia organizer Maru Mora-Villalpando was heartened by the event. “This is a great example of coming together to work against oppression and for liberation of all people,” she said. Photo by Ryan Kozu.

Tsuru in the News!

Here’s a round-up of the some of the great media coverage of this action. Big thanks to the thoughtful, hardworking journalists — some of them descendants of WWII incarceration themselves — who amplified Tsuru for Solidarity and La Resistencia’s calls to #StopRepeatingHistory!

Once Put In Concentration Camps, Japanese Americans Rally For Detained Immigrants, Mari Hayman for HuffPost

‘Never Again is Now’ for Japanese Americans protesting immigration jail in Tacoma, Naomi Ishisaka for The Seattle Times

Japanese American Elders Protest the Northwest Detention Center, Sam Britt for KBCS 91.3

Crowd remembers Japanese incarceration at immigrant detention center in Tacoma, Simone Alicea for KNKX

A Day of Remembrance = A Day of Action, Frank Abe

Survivors of Japanese internment speak out against immigrant detention, Tina Vasquez for Prism

‘Never again is now’: Japanese Americans driven by history in immigration fight, Lilly Fowler for Crosscut

A ‘trail of ghosts’ in Seattle, 78 years after Japanese incarceration, Glenn Nelson for Crosscut

Header photo by Ryan Kozu.