Black Lives Matter seizing the moment, not letting go

JOURNEY TO JUSTICE Protesters honoring slain George Floyd and other African-American victims of violence during a silent vigil at Seventh and F streets and Arcata City Hall. KLH | Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – From Arcata City Hall to the streets of Eureka to greater Humboldt, the Golden Gate Bridge, all major American cities and many small towns, the White House and around the world, last week saw no letup, only an intensification and expansion of protests over the police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. 

Exasperation and outrage over unrelenting racial injustice drew a sustained response at all levels of society. In Humboldt, the response included continued expressions of outrage over the botched Arcata Police investigation into the still-unsolved killing of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson. 

A Black Lives Matter activist with a portrait of George Floyd. KLH | Union

The Arcata City Council observed a moment of silence for George Floyd at its Wednesday meeting, later also adjourning the meeting in his honor. 

Councilmembers and city staff attended Black Lives Matter rallies in both Eureka and Arcata, expressing appreciation for their peaceful nature. 

“I’m just grateful that people are speaking out about racial injustice,” said Councilmember Sofia Pereira. She noted that Arcata as well as a number of organizations have been working on racism, and that “this is just a reminder that we can’t be complacent in that work."

Pereira said Black Lives Matter allies can assist by pitching in with donating to organizations and supporting Black Humboldt, True North Organizing Network, Equity Arcata and the Eureka NAACP. The Black Humboldt website – blackhumboldt.com – lists local black-owned businesses that can be supported.

Pereira said the message she heard “loud and clear” from the various rallies was that “it’s better to try than to be silent... it’s better to say something than say nothing at all.”

At the same time, she said, “We still have a long ways to go. We’re not where we need to be.”

Pereira urged demonstration participants to observe proper coronavirus precautions so that their activism doesn’t put them at risk. “I’m worried about people’s safety,” she said. 

She further noted the Arcata Police Department’s reform work pursuant to the critical report of the National Police Foundation, as well as that conducted in response to the police killing of George Floyd. 

Black Lives Matter activists on the Plaza. KLH | Union

Vice Mayor Paul Pitino said he was appreciative that Plaza protests enjoyed an absence of police, and went well. A public transportation enthusiast, Pitino noted with satisfaction that an Arcata & Mad River Transit bus had slowed and used emergency flashers, scrupulously observing safety precautions around the crowd.

Way back on May 15, long before the killing of George Floyd, stalwart Arcata peace advocate Joanne McGarry stood alone on a desolate, pre-reopening Plaza, holding a solo vigil in honor of jogger Ahmaud Arbery and Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson. KLH | Union

He expressed concern about police use of choke holds. Police Chief Brian Ahearn said that while such holds are taught at the College of the Redwoods Police Academy, he expects changes to that policy both in response to national guidelines via the Campaign Zero effort to eliminate police violence, and the direction of the City Council. “There are techniques taught over the years that simply are no longer needed,” he said. 

Ahearn said Arcata officers will undergo further training to harmlessly de-escalate situations and minimize the possibility of injury to citizens. The matter will be agendized for the next council meeting for further discussion.

As Arcata Police continued internal reforms, organizations from cultural to educational, plus businesses and individuals vowed solidarity with Black Lives Matter activists, promising to do better in recognizing and addressing the many forms of racism (see page 9).

In adjourning the council meeting in honor of George Floyd, Mayor Michael Winkler expressed the council’s “deep sorrow for the murder by the police officer, and the impact on the community and the impact on Mr. Floyd’s family.”

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McK Grief and Justice Memorial

The Church of the Joyful Healer, 1944 Central Ave., has created a McKinleyville Grief and Justice Memorial for George Floyd in its front lawn through the month of June. Community members are invited to bring a symbol of their personal grief and commitment to justice to be placed in the circle of community care. 

The memorial offers an opportunity to commit ourselves to being active in looking out for the safety, health and kinship of all our neighbors, no matter the tone of one’s skin.  A candlelight vigil will take place on Sunday, June 14, from 8 to 9 p.m. Candles will be provided by the church.  Participants will wear their own face masks.

 







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