SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego State Wednesday will mark the third annual "Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution," honoring an Oakland man who challenged the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka; David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties; Greg Marutani, National Japanese American Citizens League education chairman; and David Kawamoto, the immediate past National President of the Japanese American Citizens League, are among the speakers in the program starting at 6 p.m. at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center Ballroom at San Diego State.
Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution was established under a bill by then-Assemblymen Marty Block, D-San Diego, and Warren Furutani, D-Harbor Gateway, and signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sept. 23, 2010.
The day is observed on Jan. 30, the anniversary of Korematsu's birth in 1919 in Oakland. It is the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American.
In 1942, Korematsu defied President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order authorizing the U.S. military to forcibly remove more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent from their homes and incarcerate them in camps throughout the country.
Korematsu was arrested and convicted of violating the federal order. He lost an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1944 the incarceration was justified due to military necessity.
In 1983, UC San Diego professor Peter Irons and researcher Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga discovered key documents that government intelligence agencies had hidden from the Supreme Court in 1944.
The documents consistently showed that Japanese Americans had committed no acts of treason to justify mass incarceration, leading a federal court to overturn Korematsu's conviction in 1983.
"After my father's conviction was overturned in 1983, his mission was education," said Karen Korematsu, a co-founder of the San Francisco-based Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.
Fred Korematsu went on to champion the cause of civil liberties, not only seeking redress for Japanese Americans who were incarcerated, but also traveling throughout the nation to advocate for the civil rights of other victims, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Fred Korematsu received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton in 1998. He died in 2005 at the age of 86.
"History offers us many lessons, among them the cost of war and racism, and the strength it takes to achieve justice," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. "Korematsu Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on all this and more."
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