Friday, July 6, 2007

Manzanar Revolt

On December 6, 1942 almost half the camp organized and marched to the administration area where a committee of five representatives negotiated the release of Harry Ueno. Harry was the organizer of the kitchen worker’s union at Manzanar. He had confronted the administration because while the mess hall was given insufficient sugar rations, the sugar bowls in the administrative buildings were full. Harry was arrested, without positive identification, following the beating of a JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) leader. The JACL, a minority group of young Nisei, cooperated with the internment and the camp administration and therefore procured positions of more importance and better pay than that of the Issei and Kibei. The administration’s release of Harry was met with uproarious celebration that evolved into general protest of the internment. The internees taunted soldiers, sang patriotic Japanese songs and threw rocks at the MPs. The MP’s used tear gas and fired into the crowd. Two internees died and nine were wounded. Harry Ueno was arrested along with the five negotiators. Fifteen “troublemakers” in all were held in local jails without hearings. In support of the prisoners, most work shut down in the camp for several weeks because the internees refused to show up. In January, the “troublemakers” were imprisoned at Dalton Wells, Utah. Harry was separated from his family and imprisoned for a year without ever being charged with a crime. And it all started with sugar. Manzanar National Historic Site, California, May 2007.

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