Around 200 people gathered in Waterfront Park at the Japanese American Historical Plaza/Bill of Rights Plaza to say, “Never Again.” The memory of the Japanese incarceration during World War II is much more vivid here in Portland than anywhere else I have been. The experience is more real–people have family who were sent away; others knew people who were sent away and imprisoned. One of my friend’s neighbors was sent away; her family managed to keep the farm for them to return to–many were not so lucky. The occasion for today’s vigil was to say, No, to President-elect Trump’s attempt to use the Japanese imprisonment as precedent for making a list of Muslims.
In this memorial space, the stone to the left has engraved on it the names of the places where the Japanese families were herded and kept behind barbed wire and guarded. Another significance of the space was mentioned in the invocation: We gather here on land ceded by the Tribes of the Grande Ronde.
The vigil opened with Taiko drumming.
Speakers represented many religions–Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Native American–as well as city and state government and human rights organizations.Overall the message was of unity and solidarity: if they come for one, we will all be there.
I learned of a resistance to the Holocaust, an Imam in Paris had quickly registered Jews as Muslims to protect them.
The city councilman reminded us of Portland’s non-discrimination policies and assured us that Portland would remain a sanctuary city.
An Asian high school student told how important it was for her to learn of various ways Asians had been active in the Civil Rights movement and other crisis situations.
We closed singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Edited to add link to Oregonian article and professional photos.