With the family of the late Gordon Hirabayashi in attendance, Metropolitan King County Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski unveiled a plaque honoring Hirabayashi on May 15 in the County Council’s lobby, just steps away from where Hirabayashi was imprisoned for refusing to comply with Executive Order 9066, 75 years ago.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were members of Hirabayashi’s legal team, who successfully fought to overturn his conviction in the 1980s.
“When Gordon decided to take his principled stand, his belief was always that ancestry was not a crime, and he was willing to pay the price,” said Tom Ikeda, executive director of Densho. “I thank the King County Council for acknowledging and paying tribute to Gordon and his life, as it is now more important than ever to recognize his fight.”
On May 16, 1942, Hirabayashi was arrested and confined in the King County Jail for defying Executive Order 9066, which ordered the forced removal of and mass incarceration of approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, roughly two-thirds of whom were American citizens. This included 9,600 residents of King County.
Hirabayashi was imprisoned for nine months on the 12th floor of the King County Courthouse. While part of the floor is still used by the jail, another part currently houses the King County Council.
“Today is really significant for our family, to have my dad’s sojourn recognized as a significant stand for the rights of all Americans,” said Jay Hirabayashi, son of Gordon Hirabayashi.
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