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New Monument in Venice Marks the 75th Anniversary of U.S. Internment of Japanese-Americans

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Yuki (left) and Aki Toya in front of their barracks at the Tule Lake internment camp, 1945. | Shades of L.A.: Japanese American Community/LAPL

 A 9-foot-tall black-granite monument will be dedicated in Venice Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II at the spot where many of them were ordered to board buses bound for the Manzanar detention center.

The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument has been in the planning stages for about seven years. But members of the committee that planned the monument said the inspiration dated back to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror strikes.

In the months following the attacks, hate crimes surged against Middle Eastern and Muslim residents, as did calls for their imprisonment, organizers said, drawing comparisons to the treatment of Japanese-Americans following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Members of the VJAMM Committee said they want to "remind people that what happened to persons of Japanese ancestry in 1942 should never happen again to any minority group solely based on ethnicity or religion."

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Supporters have raised more than $100,000 for the monument, thanks largely to a $50,000 grant from the National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites program, and contributions from a host of elected officials, including current and former City Council members Bill Rosendahl and Mike Bonin; along with current and former county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Zev Yaroslavsky, Sheila Kuehl and Don Knabe; as well as Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles, and the city of Santa Monica.

The monument includes a map showing the route Japanese-Americans were bused along to Manzanar. There are also quotes from detainees, a list of donors and a narrative the people who were ordered to assemble on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards.

"They were allowed to bring with them only what they could carry," the narrative reads. "The Western Defense Command and Fourth Army issued Civilian Exclusion Order No. 7, which gave families only days to dispose of their property and possessions. Buses transported them directly to the American Concentration Camp at Manzanar in Inyo County, where many internees were incarcerated for  more than three years."

The narrative concludes, "May this Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument remind us  to be forever vigilant about defending our Constitutional rights. The powers of government must never again perpetrate an injustice against any group based solely on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion."

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