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Where We Live: Minoru ‘Min’ Yasui’s jail cell

Where We Live: Minoru ‘Min’ Yasui’s jail cell

KOIN, December 21, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The jail cell that held Japanese American attorney Minoru “Min” Yasui during World War II is a symbol of a dark time in Oregon’s history. It was recently removed from the old Multnomah County Courthouse but will be preserved in a museum to serve as a reminder — and a warning.

Yasui was an American. He was born in 1916 to Japanese immigrants on the family farm in Hood River, Oregon. He graduated from the University of Oregon’s law school and became the first Japanese American to practice law in Oregon.

But the war changed everything.

Under Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. military established exclusion zones and curfews targeting Japanese Americans during the war. In March of 1942, Yasui challenged the constituency of the 8 p.m. curfew by intentionally breaking it. He walked into downtown Portland’s Central Precinct, was arrested, and held for nine months in what was then the Multnomah County Courthouse as his case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.