Commemorations in Manhattan marking the 75th anniversary of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II turned at times into protests against President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
At a two-mile morning walk Saturday that filed past Trump Tower, and at an afternoon forum, signs and speakers denounced the executive order and drew parallels between the federal government singling out Japanese-Americans in the 1940s and what they view as Trump singling out Muslims today.
Keary Horiuchi, 58, of Brooklyn, whose U.S.-born parents were forced from their Los Angeles homes and sent to camps in Arizona and Wyoming, said Trump’s campaign rhetoric deriding Muslims, Mexican immigrants and others echoed the anti-Japanese hysteria that led to the internment camps.
“You can just hear the resonance of the fear, anger and xenophobia of what occurred in World War II,” he said. “The same types of emotions are being whipped up.”
A federal judge in Seattle blocked Trump’s order on Feb. 3, a decision unanimously upheld by a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco. Trump said Thursday he would soon issue a new executive order.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, spurred by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and a fear that Japanese-Americans could be spies or saboteurs. It authorized the forced removal of people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast and their incarceration further inland. Most of the 120,000 people interned were U.S. citizens.
The commemoration walk, by design, was eerily silent — punctuated only by the sound of chimes.
As Horiuchi and about two dozen others walked past Trump Tower, some raised their fists in outrage. A sign a man carried had Roosevelt’s executive order in black writing, the words “Never Again!” written over it in red.
The Trump administration has asserted that the order prohibiting entry to people from the seven countries for 90 days until vetting procedures are strengthened is not anti-Muslim. Most Muslim-majority countries were not part of the ban, administration officials say.
Several camp survivors joined the final three blocks of the walk to Japanese American United Church on Seventh Avenue.
Madeleine Sugimoto, 80, of Manhattan, said that while she and her parents were in camps in Arkansas after they were expelled from their Hanford, Calif., home, her parents shielded her from what they later in life said was the “fear and humiliation” of living behind barbed-wire fences and being watched from guard towers.
“It was the sense that we were American citizens and then suddenly we’re thrown into camps having done nothing wrong, but as a group being discriminated against,” she said.
During an afternoon forum at the church, Michael Ishii, 51, of Queens, said hatred, discrimination and violence against Japanese-Americans was not limited to the West Coast. He said that in 1942, his great-uncle was shot to death at his home in Dutchess County, and the great-uncle’s mother and wife injured, in an anti-Japanese hate crime.
Ishii urged fellow Japanese-Americans to support Muslims.
“This is the time to be the allies we needed in World War II,” he said. “We are the front line that says, ‘Never again.’”
The New York Day of Remembrance Committee, which sponsored the forum, is holding another event from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the La MaMa theater, 66 E. 4th St., Manhattan. The gathering will include photographs, video, music, art and speeches.