old federal courtroom, Boise

Retracing the steps of the Minidoka draft resisters

While in Idaho for a symposium, I took the opportunity to research settings for the forthcoming graphic novel on camp resistance, in particular the places where the draft resisters from Minidoka were jailed and put on trial in September, 1944.

Ada County Courthouse, Boise

With the Friends of Minidoka — Hanako Wakatsuki, Mia Russell, and Kurt Yokoyama Ikeda — we started at the Ada County Courthouse, where Jim and Gene Ada County Courthouse interiorAkutsu and the other draft resisters were brought from camp and held in the old jail on the top floors. We could still see the iron grates over the windows, from where they could look out. The top floors are now sealed off from the public.
Borah Building stepsTo get to the old federal courthouse two blocks away, the prisoners would have to have been marched across what is now Cecil Andrus Park, where they would have seen the grand dome of the old federal courtroom, BoiseIdaho State Capitol to their right, and brought into what’s now known as the Borah Buiding, at 304 N. Eighth St.

They they were tried in what Jim Akutsu called the kangaroo court of U.S. District Court Judge Chase Clark. I was lucky to be with Hanako as she talked our way into getting the courtroom unlocked so that we could photograph every square inch for the graphic novel. The full story of the trial is vividly retold in Eric Muller’s Free to Die For Their Country.

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Symposium panelists
(L to R) Kurt Yokoyama Ikeda, Hanako Wakatsuki, Dr. Ross Burkhart, Frank Abe, Sharon Yamato, Mia Russell

The occasion for my being in Idaho was to deliver the keynote address for the 13th annual Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium, as we approach the 40th anniversary of Symposium stagethe very first “Day of Remembrance” at the Puyallup Fairgounds.  Look for a blog post coming up closer to the actual anniversary of the first DOR, which took place on November 25, 1978.

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