Students and community members gather to remember Josiah Lawson
David Josiah Lawson was a son, student and athlete that loved football and skateboarding. His favorite snacks were Oreos, which pair well with his favorite ice cream cookies n’ cream, and he hated math. Josiah Lawson, or as his mother Charmaine calls him, DJ, was murdered on April 15, 2017.
It is a crime that is still unsolved and one that has brought some in the Humboldt community together to demand justice for him and his mother.
On April 15, a group of about 40 people, mostly students and members of Justice 4 Josiah (J4J), gathered at the Great Hall on HSU’s campus to commemorate the life of Josiah. Groups sat around the room chatting, laughing and sharing memories of Josiah.
Charmaine Lawson and Tay Triggs called out trivia questions about Josiah’s life. His favorite Disney movie was the Lion King, his first job was at Dollar Tree, he taught himself to play the guitar, he lived for a year abroad in Germany and absolutely loved skateboarding. There was also a raffle and the main prize was a skateboard.
“Whoever wins the board, please cherish it,” Charmaine Lawson said. “My son loved to ride.”
After the raffle and dancing, the students and members of J4J took to the streets and began their march to the Arcata Plaza. Two large banners were carried by students, one of which needed three people to carry it and was about 12 feet wide by 8 feet tall.
The message was painted in red, Josiah’s favorite color, and said “JUSTICE 4 JOSIAH, 2 YRS NO JUSTICE.” The other banner called for the recall of District Attorney Maggie Fleming.
“To hear her say that there is not enough evidence [to prosecute] is a load of crap,” Charmaine Lawson said about the March 13 grand jury decision not to bring charges. “[The prosecutor] presented a self-defense case and that is a load of crap. The evidence is there, but they chose to present it in a way that demanded self-defense.”
Charmaine Lawson has been fighting for justice for her son since he was murdered and led the J4J members to the Arcata Plaza. Chants of “justice for Josiah” rang out across the town and echoed off the buildings. The J4J marchers met in the Arcata Plaza with flowers, candles and about 100 people attended.
Renee Saucedo, volunteer organizer with Centro del Pueblo, was the first to speak and stood on the raised flower bed in the center of the plaza where a statue of former president William McKinley once was.
“This is the people’s platform now,” Saucedo said to the crowd. “We will not stop fighting until we receive justice. This County is not capable of handling a fair and just trial.”
Colleen Robinson lives in Arcata and brought her daughter Alana to the vigil. Robinson said that it is important for her daughter to be there and that the entire Humboldt community should be more involved in demanding justice for families of murder victims.
“I think it is unbelievable that is has been two years and no one has been held accountable,” Robinson said. “It seems like none of these murderers are getting very much time.”
A light mist blew in as the vigil neared its end. Two singers sang the Bob Marley classic “One Love” to soothe the ears of those gathered. The crowd started to disband shortly after the song finished.
In the distance, Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn stood and looked on during the event. Ahearn has attended many of the vigils and has vowed to continue to fight for justice, but he needs more witnesses to come forward.
As the mist turned to a light rain, Charmaine Lawson led a group of J4J members over to Ahearn to ask him about the outcome of the grand jury decision.
Charmaine Lawson asked Ahearn about a witness she said was used to assassinate the character of Josiah. Ahearn said he did not know who the witnesses were that came to testify and stood by the actions of the District Attorney’s office.
“You are the chief of police…how did you not know this?” Charmaine Lawson asked. “Now that you do know this are you going to have this conversation with [DA Fleming]? Do you see why the Department of Justice needs to take this case over? Do you see that there is no way that my son will get a fair trial here if we have a DA like that?”
Ahearn responded that his goal is to provide more information to the District Attorney’s office.
“That is not good enough,” Charmaine Lawson said. “That is not good enough. Two years today. It has been two years.”
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