Campus, News

‘Justice for Josiah’ event addresses murder of Humboldt State student

On April 15, 2017, David Josiah Lawson, an African-American criminology major at Humboldt State University was murdered following an altercation with a group of white locals who accused him of stealing a cell phone.

After being stabbed and pepper sprayed repeatedly by the group, Lawson’s life could have been saved had emergency responders arrived in time, according to online publication Afropunk.

The Long Beach State chapter of La Raza Student Association held a “Justice for Josiah” event and Wednesday afternoon at the Speaker’s Platform, followed by a screening of the documentary “Unsolved Hate: Arcata.”

Asia Gonzalez and Nathan Carbajal spoke to the crowd on a megaphone, standing behind a large banner reading “Justice for Josiah,” with a drawing of Lawson front-and-center. A screening of “Unsolved Hate: Arcata,” which documents the case, was scheduled to screen immediately after.

“[Arcata] police are being very shady about the investigation, and the school has also distanced themselves from the case,” Gonzalez said. “We are trying to put pressure on both authorities to take more action, and we are also spreading his story because his mother is working really hard to spread it, so we are trying to help her out.”

Carbajal praised Lawson’s mom, Charmaine Lawson, for continuing her advocacy for her son despite the amount of time that has passed since his death.

The turnout for the event initially numbered around 30 students at its peak, but those numbers slowly dwindled as the speeches progressed. Once the speakers finished, they led a march to the Raza Resource Center in FO4-262, with Gonzalez leading the group in chanting “Justice for Josiah” and “Black Lives Matter” in call-response form.

Those who attended the screening of “Unsolved Hate: Arcata,” a documentary focused on the circumstances surrounding Lawson’s murder and the subsequent investigation, were clearly passionate about the case. Before the screening began, everyone in the room was engaged in discussions related to the murder of Lawson and others who have been killed in hate crimes.

“If somebody is going to murder someone, they should [face] the consequences, and it shouldn’t be fair [for] this person who had his whole life ahead of him,” fifth year criminal justice major Michelle Barba said. “It was cut short and he still has no type of justice at all, and it’s also like justice for his mother so she can have some type of peace.”

A social media campaign was launched using the hashtag #justiceforjosiah, as well as a website dedicated to his memory.

“[His mother] advocated that Humboldt State stop recruiting black students, if I recall correctly, because it’s a dangerous campus for black students,” Carbajal said. “The death occurred 17 months ago, so time has elapsed, but she is still very in passion … she still shows up to [California State University] Board of Trustees meetings and she’s been working with Black Lives Matter, and she as a person is very outspoken about what’s happened.”

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