Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Exactly seven months after the violent killing of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson, a phalanx of silent marchers walked from the university to City Hall, where the City Council was meeting. The marchers paused outside the City Manager’s Conference Room, where the council had been meeting in closed session, displaying to those inside a banner full of pictures of the young man that also read “LONG LIVE DJ” and “LONG LIVE JOSIAH.”
Assembling inside the Council Chamber, some of the marchers spoke during Early Oral Communication. Charmaine Lawson, mother of the slain Rancho Verde High School student, played a heart-wrenching audio recording of her son’s voice in which he spoke confidently of attending Humboldt State. Lawson planned to major in criminal justice and become an attorney.
“You’re not a man because of how strong you are,” the then-18-year-old said. “Being a man in the 21st century is about the character of your heart... To be a man, you have to stand up for what you believe in. You have to show love and compassion for others.”
“This is the young man that I raised,” Charmaine said.
Subsequent speakers complained of a lack of support by the council and city, and said authorities weren’t vigorously pursuing justice.
“It’s been seven months, and no progress,” said one man.
Police Chief Tom Chapman wasn’t present at the meeting, but later said claims of inaction are “the furthest from the truth.”
“This case is open and active and has been this entire time,” he said. “We don’t publicize progress on the case, we don’t share investigative steps and strategies.”
Chapman said “vital” evidence is still being processed, and that “this is the highest priority case that we have.”
Following Early Oral Communication, City Manager Karen Diemer said the city is committed to installing lighting on the pedestrian walkway over U.S. Highway 101 that links Humboldt State to Northtown, to improve student safety. The work is budgeted for this fiscal year, but the usual jurisdictional issues could delay the project’s completion until as late as next June.
Diemer also outlined the sweeping equity initiatives the city and Humboldt State have in progress to improve student comfort and safety, particularly for students of color.
“We want the students here in Arcata,” Diemer said. “We want to welcome and to feel welcoming to the students in Arcata. We want you to stay and raise families and open businesses and become entrepreneurs, ’cause that’s how Arcata has been built over time.”