San José, CA - On Feb. 19, more than 425 people attended the 32nd Annual Day of Remembrance event in San José Japantown organized by the Nihonmachi (Japantown) Outreach Committee (NOC). This event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Roosevelt that led to the incarceration of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.
The theme of the Day of Remembrance program was “Civil Liberties Under Siege”. The NOC keynote speaker, Will Kaku, said, “We remember the judicial debates on terrorist detentions, the USA Patriot Act, National Security Registration System, last year’s congressional commissions that singled out Islam and terrorism. And just a few months ago, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act that contains a provision that allows the indefinite detention of American citizens and yet we had to remind people once again that our families were also held without the due process of law.”
A special guest speaker was Karen Korematsu, of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education. Karen’s father, Fred Korematsu, along with other Japanese Americans, fought a legal battle against the concentration camps all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the original U.S. Supreme Court decision which upheld the concentration camps in the interests of national security was later vacated (overturned on a technicality) in the 1980s after another long court battle, the U.S. Supreme Court never ruled that the camps were unconstitutional.
Another special guest speaker was Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Ms. Billoo spoke of the government repression of American Muslims following Sept. 11, 2001 that continues to this day. She also thanked the Japanese American community for its solidarity with American Muslims during these difficult times.
Local Japanese American congressperson Mike Honda also spoke and a spontaneous cheer broke out when he said that he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act. Mike Honda and his family, including his 95-year old mother, participated in the candle-lighting ceremony to honor the memory of those incarcerated in the camps.
The program wrapped up with an award to PJ and Roy Hirabayashi, founders of San José Taiko. San Jose Taiko is a Japanese American drum ensemble that has become a regular performer at the Day of Remembrance events, and they played a special number called Day of Remembrance at the event.