The Lumberjack

Justice for Josiah rally

Justice for Josiah rally on the UC Quad at Humboldt State on April 5. Photo by Surya Gopalan.

On April 5 at 1:30 p.m., students at Humboldt State left class to attend a rally on the UC quad in remembrance of David Josiah Lawson, a student who was stabbed to death at a party in Arcata almost a year ago.

“It’s been a year, and that is fucking ridiculous,” Barbara Singleton, president of the Black Student Union at HSU said.

Singleton stands on the second floor of The Depot, surrounded by a crowd of students who all left class as a part of the student-led walkout for safety in honor of David Josiah Lawson. The rain pounds down relentlessly, seemingly undetturent to all in attendance. The walkout is a part of 12 days of events being hosted in honor of the anniversary of Lawson’s unsolved murder.

Video by Surya Gopalan.

A year ago at a party in Arcata, Lawson, a black HSU student, was stabbed to death. There are currently no persons in custody. Students walked out of class at 1:30 p.m. on April 5 to be present at the 2 p.m. rally to bring justice to Josiah and demonstrate for student safety.

Kalyn Garcia, 18, social work major, left class to be present at the rally.

“I think that it is way bigger than Josiah,” Garcia said. “Any black, Mexican or children of color should not be concerned to leave their house.”

As the rally began, two students, Singleton, as well as Daniel Segura, 23, a critical race, gender and sexuality studies major, began leading the rally. They began by explaining there have been rumors about the Justice for Josiah movement being involved in illegal or destructive activities, and that they do not condone any violence or illegal actions.

Angel Sylva then performed a poem she wrote for Lawson, which will be performed again on the vigil held for Lawson on April 15.

“If it happened to one of us, it can happen again,” Sylva said.

With no sound equipment available to students after 1:00 p.m., due to campus policy, Sylva projects her voice as her only tool to spread her message to students.

Students then began calling out the members of administration in the crowd. Alex Enyedi, the provost of HSU, as well as Wayne Brunfield, the interim vice president of Student Affairs, were two of the members of administration in attendance.

“They have been silent this whole 12 months,” Singleton said.

Singleton directly addressed HSU administration, the Arcata city council and the police department.

“They have blood on their hands,” Singleton said.

The crowd screamed for administration to speak, one individual saying, “It’s fucked up for you to be here and not say anything.”

Eventually, Enyedi took the stage after much student call-out. He thanked the crowd for the opportunity to speak, then began.

“Students are told you need to be patient, but I get it. How long should you be patient for?” Enyedi said. “I share your frustration, I share your impatience. It shouldn’t take this long.”

Enyedi is not the one the students want to hear from. The question on everybody’s mind is where is Lisa Rossbacher, president of HSU? Students call out to Enyedi, demanding answers.

“I’ll tell her you’re unhappy she isn’t here,” Enyedi said.

A voice from the crowd screams, “We aren’t unhappy, we’re angry!”

President Rossbacher never showed up.

Brumfield was not getting away with silence either. Singleton and Segura called from the stage, “Wayne, where are you?”

Brumfield did go up to the stage and approved students to use a megaphone, but never addressed the crowd. Many continued asking why he did not speak.

When asked, Brumfield spoke of a racial equity plan he says he is currently working closely with students on. He said students deserve a voice in how equity and inclusion are happening in the community.

“We’re working with the two chiefs of police, students and community members to look at policies of police reacting to students, both on and off campus,” Brumfield said. “I think we are moving in the right direction.”

As the rally continued, a song written about Josiah was performed and then different chants were yelled throughout the crowd.

The event coordinators then relayed the message of future events and concluded the event, inviting students to continue their activism and presence in the coming weeks.

“The Justice for Josiah movement is very peaceful,” Singleton said.

At one point in the rally, a group of people visiting for spring preview walked past the UC quad.

“Anything they tell you will not justify his murder,” Segura said to the passersby.

Segura, being in his 10th semester at HSU, he says he has seen how the administration deceives students. He said HSU goes down south and recruits students of color without disclosing the violence toward people of color that has happened in the area.

“How are we supposed to welcome students of color when they trick you?” Segura asked.

This article has been updated from its original version on Monday, April 9 at 5:58 p.m.