On the two-year anniversary of David Josiah Lawson’s death, dozens gathered at the Arcata Plaza today to again commemorate the slain 19-year-old Humboldt State University student, whose fatal stabbing remains unsolved.
“This isn’t justice here in Humboldt County — this is racism,” said organizer Renee Saucedo, who noted that the plaza’s recent loss of a President William McKinley statue made it possible to occupy the space without a reminder of bigotry.
Saucedo and others urged attendees to email elected officials about Lawson’s case so the state Department of Justice considers picking up the investigation.
Lorenza Sista Iris and Debroah Biancamankai led the crowd in a rendition of “One Love” by Bob Marley, saying the reggae song was one of Lawson’s favorites.
A man who said he and his wife have embraced Michelle-Charmaine Lawson — the victim’s mother — urged attendees to find ways to help her out, including supporting her financially for her monthly trips up to Humboldt County.
An HSU student, who identified herself as Deja, led the crowd in a group prayer, as attendees stood close together amid light rain.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom; it is our duty to win,” the crowd chanted in prayer. “We must love and support each other; we have nothing to lose but our chains.”
When it came time for Michelle-Charmaine Lawson to speak, she hardly made it past a sentence before breaking down in tears.
“I sent him here,” she said, referring to her son’s HSU attendance. David Josiah Lawson had been a second-year student majoring in criminology and justice studies. “I made sacrifices to be here … why do they think my child’s life does not matter?”
In March, the county District Attorney’s office declined to file charges in Lawson’s case, having handed the matter to a criminal grand jury that ultimately declined to indict anyone. Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn has responded that his officers will continue to investigate via a 24-hour tip line: 707-825-2590.
Multiple people at the vigil called on the public to oust District Attorney Maggie Fleming from office. Michelle-Charmaine Lawson agreed, saying Fleming “must go.”
She then addressed her late son directly.
“We last talked two years today,” she said through tears. “I want you to know how much I miss you … I want to call you and I know you’re not going to answer. You were my rock, my child I could depend on. I love you more than I could express.”
“But mommy’s going to hell and back for you,” she continued, adding that she won’t stop until the person who “butchered” her son is convicted.
“I’m going to continue to fight for you,” she said.
Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.