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You may have spotted some odd signs with a dark message while walking around your city in the last few days. Over the weekend, the street artist Plastic Jesus and his team of collaborators affixed 50 signs to construction sites around the US that read, “Lot reserved for: Future Internment Camp.” Below the words are the seal of the President of the United States, the seal of the White House, and Donald Trump’s terrifying signature, marking the notices as part of an official “Executive order 9066.”
The signs were posted in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Detroit, Miami, and Boston. Some were installed in prominent areas, including a site adjacent to the Trump Tower in Chicago and on Sunset Boulevard in LA. In an email, Plastic Jesus told Hyperallergic he was not sure how many remain up.
A QR code on the signs is the only explicit hint that they’re not what they seem; scanning one with a smartphone brings you to Plastic Jesus’ website, which explains the guerrilla campaign. Those who know their US history will also recognize that Executive Order 9066 was former President Franklin Roosevelt’s racist decree that forced thousands of people of Japanese descent to enter incarceration camps, regardless of US citizenship.
The nationwide installation, which arrived a few days shy of the announcement of President Trump’s revised executive order on immigration, positions a future that might have seemed far-fetched just a few months ago as a plausible reality. Many nightmarish incidents have already occurred as a result of Trump’s initial travel ban that targeted seven predominantly Muslim countries. No one would have imagined, for instance, a situation wherein thousands needed to flock to airports to protest the detention and questioning of people who have every right to enter the country. Although the new policy removes Iraq from the list, no longer affects current visa holders, and permits the entry of refugees already granted asylum — among other changes — it is built on the same intolerance, executed in the name of national security. Plastic Jesus’ signs make passersby consider how today’s xenophobia is pushing the country back to 1942.
The street artist, who is a British citizen with a green card, organized a similar anti-Trump protest during the election campaign. Last April, his “NO TRUMP ANYTIME” parking signs popped up around cities across the US. In an interview with Hyperallergic at the time, he said, “I think over the past few decades most nations have come a long way to create an environment that has greater equality, immigration [policies], freedoms, and rights. I think if Trump becomes president, a lot of these things we take for granted would no longer be there.” His internment lots of the future visualize that premonition.
The University of Virginia researchers wrote that the data “provides compelling evidence that these symbols are associated with hate.”
We are waiting for spectacle and when the quotidian, yet incongruous actions occur I wonder whether there is any real payoff coming.
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