Activists and Japanese Americans around the country are fighting to stop a planned 3-mile barbed wire fence encircling an airport that sits on the site of Tule Lake Camp north of Sacramento. The Tule Lake Committee, which is is leading the opposition to the fence, is calling on people to submit public comment on the proposal by October 10.
A local airport covers two thirds of the camp and most of the barracks where prisoners lived. The Tule Lake Committee, which organizes pilgrimages to the site, is concerned that a fence around the airport would harm a significant civil rights monument, and block off access to the places most meaningful for visitors.
The airport operator argues that the fence is needed to keep wildlife out, which are a potential safety concern — though he told the Sacramento Bee that no animals have gotten in the way of the airport yet.
Over 20,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at Tule Lake camp, which operated between 1942 and 1946 and sits in the desert about five hours north of Sacramento. Of the 10 concentration camps in the U.S., Tule Lake was particularly repressive; it was the only maximum security camp, and for a time prisoners lived under harsh martial law.
Barbara Takei, whose mother was incarcerated there, is CFO of the Tule Lake Committee. As she told the Sacramento Bee: “The fence is a desecration of a site we feel is spiritual, a site where people go to mourn, a site that is for remembrance….With the fence, we will be shut out from where our families lived and permanently reminded of the racism and hostility that put us there in the first place.”
Star Trek actor George Takei grew up in Tule Lake camp when his family was incarcerated there. Takei joined activists in opposing the fence.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 7, 2013
In a comment on a Change.org petition, Takei wrote:
When I was but a small child, my family and I were forced at gunpoint from our home in Los Angeles and spent years in two internment camps, first in the swamplands of Arkansas, and then at Tule Lake. I have spent my life ensuring that we never forget, and never repeat, these mistakes of the past. This fence would prevent any visitors to the grounds of the former internment camp, include the infamous stockade. It would be a body blow to our efforts to keep this critical piece of American history, however blighted, from fading from our collective memory.
The Modoc County Road Commissioner is accepting public comment on the proposed fence until October 10. The Tule Lake committee is asking people to send letters to save the site, addressed to:
Mr. Mitch Crosby
Modoc County Road Commissioner
202 West 4th St.,
Alturas, CA 96101