75 Years After EO 9066, Monument to Past Intersects With Present

A large crowd gathered at the northwest corner Venice and Lincoln boulevards on April 27 for the dedication of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument, a project that took the organizers seven years to accomplish. (GEORGE JOHNSTON/Rafu Shimpo)


By GEORGE TOSHIO JOHNSTON, Rafu Shimpo

More than 200 people gathered on a pleasant Thursday morning at the northwest corner of the busy crossroads of Venice and Lincoln boulevards to dedicate a 6.25-ton monument erected to commemorate another April day some 75 years earlier.

On that day, more than 1,000 local denizens, many dressed in their Sunday best and bearing what possessions they could fit in a suitcase, boarded buses to begin an odyssey that would deliver them first to horse stables and then to where most would spend the next several years: a concentration camp on U.S. soil.

Those 1,000 people came from Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu, and were singled out because of their Japanese ancestry, whether legal resident aliens barred by law from naturalization or American-born citizens.

If there was a common refrain in the remarks of the sundry dignitaries present for the dedication of the 9-foot-tall, 12,500-pound black granite reminder of the dangers of government overreach under the guise of national security and the trauma of war hysteria, failure of political leadership and race prejudice, it was: “We must never let this happen again.”

The ceremony was the culmination of 16 years of planning, fundraising, grant-writing, worrying and more by the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee, led by Phyllis Hayashibara. “I