By T. William Wallin and Freddy Brewster
“My son needs you more now than ever, stand for him and fight for him.” These words were spoken by Charmaine Lawson to a crowd of grieving students, faculty, administrators and community members at the UC quad on Friday March 15.
“Thank you everybody for being here,” Lawson said. “We will see how the system treats people who aren’t from here, we shouldn’t be judged by the color of our skin but by our character. My son was a man of character.”
On Wednesday March 13, a grand jury declined to indict any person in the fatal stabbing of Charmaine Lawson’s son and murdered HSU student, David Josiah Lawson. This lead to protests at the Humboldt County Courthouse and Justice For Josiah Committee to hold a gathering for Justice For Josiah on campus.
Lawson has been a presence in Humboldt County in the last 23 months since her son was murdered. She has brought attention of her son’s death to CSU Chancellor, Timothy White, CSU Chairman, Adam Day, as well as California’s attorney General Xavier Barrera.
“Your life is not supposed to be taken like my son’s,” Lawson said. “I am not going anywhere, I’m a fighter and will be fighting until the end. I need you help and your support. We have to let people know about Josiah.”
Justice For Josiah Committee member Nathaniel McGuigan said his thoughts on the grand jury’s decision was unforgivable. He said this stops the progression of the efforts of Justice For Josiah and “shows how the system supports white supremacy and the capitalist state”. Although McGuigan is disappointed with the decision he is optimistic on moving forward.
“As long as we hold them accountable there is hope,” McGuigan said. “Without pressure nothing can be done.”
A.S. President Jazmin Sandoval shares McGuigan’s disappointment. She said that the University has not been involved with the students since Josiah’s murder and students have been having to help other students.
“Charmaine just wants our support and she’s got it,” Sandoval said. “I’m hoping we are going to do our best. I don’t have faith in the criminal justice system but I have faith in the people.”
Sandoval said HSU administrators wanted to have a moment of silence for Josiah but students rejected their plan because of their absence in the past 23 months. The Gathering For Justice For Josiah was put together by Lawson and the J4J Committee.
“We did this gathering so students could be there for Charmaine,” Sandoval said. “We aren’t going to stop until we get justice for Josiah.”
HSU President Lisa Rossbacher was among the crowd listening to Lawson and said “there is no such thing as enough for times like this.” Rossbacher said she was sad for Charmaine and her family and the friends of Josiah.
“The city and university are working together to make sure that this place is safe for all of our students,” Rossbacher said. “When we talk about justice for Josiah I think we need to make sure we change society into something that is fair and equitable for all.”
Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn agrees and said UPD and APD have been working together and have a healthy collaboration in place. Ahearn said he attended the Gathering For Justice For Josiah to stand in solidarity with Lawson, Josiah and the HSU community. Ahearn said he is confident they will solve this case and bring justice for Josiah.
“We are going to get this done,” Ahearn said. “We are going to identify without any doubt who killed Josiah.”