Charmaine Lawson, the mother of HSU student Josiah Lawson who was murdered in 2017, unveiled a new organization in front of the Humboldt County Superior Court in Eureka, Justice in Humboldt. This was the 54th vigil that has been held for Josiah Lawson. Justice in Humboldt (JIH) is a collaborative effort between Justice for Josiah, Centro del Pueblo, Humboldt State Alumni, Buenlucha: Parent and Student Advocacy in Humboldt, and community members.
The stated goals of JIH are to educate the public on the failures of Humboldt’s judiciary, policing, and other publicly-funded systems. The organization says that awareness will hold these systems accountable for how they have failed the BIPOC residents of Humboldt County.
“From Maggie Fleming to Judge Dale Reinholsten, to the Eureka PD,” said Justice in Humboldt committee member Christina Lastra. “We’re putting it all on Justice in Humboldt, exposing behind the redwood curtain to let everybody know, in our beautiful Humboldt County, what is going on.”
Lawson challenged the vigil attendees to educate anyone they can on her son’s story. She also said that she intends to keep advocating in Humboldt County even after justice is served for her son, and that it feels like home to her.
“I’m going to challenge myself as well, to keep coming back and sharing other stories. So with Justice in Humboldt, bring your story to us, so that I can share that story, and we can get some type of justice. We have to get justice, and we will not give up,” said Lawson.
Several Humboldt County mothers affected by similar issues spoke at the event, including Beverley Steichen. One of her sons, Aaron Kurt Steichen, was killed by her other son Jacob Steichen in September 2020 as the latter was in the midst of a psychotic episode. She says that her son’s death could have easily been prevented if Humboldt County law enforcement and mental health services had listened to her family’s pleas for help over the five weeks prior.
“The connection that [Charmaine Lawson] and I have is that we’re in that mom’s club that we’re never supposed to be in,” said Steichen. “We also have the connection that we’re learning about the intricacies of this very corrupt county.”
Lawson faced the courthouse and spoke directly at District Attorney Maggie Fleming as she closed out the vigil.
“Maggie Flaming, I know that you don’t think my son’s life matters, but it matters,” Lawson said. “I’m not going anywhere. You will not silence me and you will not silence this community.”
Justice in Humboldt has launched their new website justiceinhumboldt.com and are on Facebook and Instagram @justiceinhumboldt. There is an ongoing Gofundme campaign to raise funds for a billboard which the organization says will raise awareness for the organization, and for the unresolved case of Josiah Lawson.
On their Gofundme page, JIH says, “If you, your friends, or your family have experienced a lack of justice due to indifference or disregard by the justice system in Humboldt, please contact Justice In Humboldt for free resources and to connect with other community members seeking justice.”