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Photo essay: #CloseTheCamps

Immigrant rights protestors return to Fort Sill



Ashley Nicole McCray, environmental scholar and 2018 candidate for Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, speaks to a crowd of protestors beneath a highway overpass outside of the Fort Sill Army installation in southwestern Oklahoma. Photo by Jessica Vazquez.

 

FORT SILL, Okla.—On July 20, more than 400 protestors marched to Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma to condemn the Trump administration’s detention of immigrants and asylum seekers. This was the second action since the June announcement that more than 1,400 migrant children were scheduled to be held at the military installation where Japanese Americans and indigenous families were one incarcerated.

The protest included members and organizations of communities who have been historically affected by federal policies such as immigrant, black, indigenous, Japanese American, and Jewish communities. The action was organized by numerous local and national organizations, including Dream Action Oklahoma and United We Dream. 

Although the temperature was in the hundreds, some protesters wrapped themselves in foil emergency thermal blankets like those given to migrants held in detention centers. Protestors chanted “Close the camps!” as they rallied outside the army base and activists dropped several banners from the nearby overpass, one of which read Ft. Sill: Caging families since 1894.

Led by indigenous activists, one line of protestors locked hands to block the entrance at Bentley Gate while another group of protestors led by immigrant youth blocked traffic at Sheridan Road outside the gates of Fort Sill. Just outside the gates, protestors took a knee as 25 Buddhist priests chanted the heart sutra in memory of Kanesaburo Ohsima, a Japanese American father of eleven who was shot to death by Fort Sill guards when the base was used as an internment camp during WWII. The priests also left a lei that Oshima’s family had sent for the ceremony on the barrel of the artillery piece outside Fort Sill’s Bentley Gate.

After the solemn ceremony, the entire group of protestors formed a lively circle that encompassed the intersection at Sheridan Road and Snow Road while Native Oklahomans played drums and sang at the center. In a final show of force, protestors took over the area under the nearby highway overpass where speakers continued to denounce current federal immigration policies.

Following the initial protest outside the gates, demonstrators gathered at Sheplar Park in Lawton where last month advocates protested the detention of children at Fort Sill. Tsuru for Solidarity, a group of Japanese Americans fighting against the incarceration and separation of migrant families and children, returned to lead a paper crane ceremony in honor of those who lost their lives in “U.S. concentration camps,” from Native chiefs who were held as prisoners of war to migrants who died in detention centers.

Just two days after the protest, U.S. Sen. James Lankford told reporters Fort Sill would not be used until fall—if at all—given a dramatic decrease in border crossings since May, according to The Oklahoman.


Read Jessica Vazquezs dispatch from the first Fort Sill protest here


 

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