Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Shocked and saddened not just by recent violent crimes, but the perception of an overall decline in public behavior locally, Jambalaya owner Pete Cioti decided doing something – anything – is better than just complaining.
Ciotti and a number of local activists are organizing a Saturday, Feb. 1 event called “Increase the Peace.”
Set for Saturday, Feb. 1 at Jambalaya Arcata, the event will feature speakers, an auction to benefit anti-violence charities and a musical show that will include both Jambalaya Arcata and the nearby Humbrews.
The event’s goals include identifying root issues behind violence, raising awareness of solutions, garnering assistance for agencies on the front lines and generally promoting hope and community.
“The death of Father [Eric] Freed really brought it home,” Ciotti said at an organizing meeting. “We’re a comunity. We’ve got to pull our heads out of our asses and do something.”
That something won’t include kvetching about negative trends and telling sad stories.
Instead, the idea is to get momentum going for effective solutions such as drug education and treatment, homeless relief and crime prevention.
“Hopefully, we can be there as a community and see both sides, not take sides,” Ciotti said.
“We want to push and promote peace,” said videographer Don Husman, who will record the event for a later video production. “Not focus on negativity, but on change for the future.”
While a grassroots endeavor, Increase The Peace is also getting support from the powers that be.
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” joked Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace at the initial organizing meeting. He said he thought the recent surge in violence was “an aberration,” but that it represents a teachable moment to better understand “the root causes of violence.”
Lovelace said that a positive message can have palpable results. “People protect what they love,” he said, referring to Humboldt County. “We’re becoming a community built around division and fear. We need to push back on that and present ourselves with a ‘moving forward’ sort of feel.”
Ciotti said that it’s a challenge and an opportunity for Humboldt County to show moral leadership and send a message to those in dire straits, possibly drug-dependent and lacking opportunity.
“We’re all connected,” he said, “Don’t be too proud or scared to reach out for help.”
Increase The Peace will kick off with a series of speakers still to be announced. Activist groups will be on hand tabling to enlist support for nonviolent causes. All this is followed by a series of bands at both Jambalaya and Humbrews.
Donations for a silent auction are being collected and speakers signed up.
Proceeds from the auction will be placed in a Humboldt Area Foundation account for the Stop The Violence campaign, an established anti-violence fund that parcels out monies to deserving charities.
The event is also coordinating with Dr. Michael Fratkin’s Meth Awareness Project. He will be one of the speakers.
“More than anything, it’s about coming together,” Ciotti summarized. “This is a community that has beautiful people doing beautiful things. Let’s spring up to action.”