A Deeper Look at Last Thursday’s Disruption of the Arcata City Council by Protesters Demanding That Tom Parker Be Asked Back to Help in the Josiah Lawson Case
Justice for Josiah Committee and allied community groups took over the city council meeting for the second day in a row last Thursday the 16th, in Arcata. About two dozen protesters entered the building preventing the City Council from completing their regular agenda. The protest group was not budging, using an amplifier and a microphone to convey their demand. “Justice for Josiah! Now!”
The Interim Arcata Police Chief Richard Ehle was on hand, monitoring the situation with an additional handful of Arcata Police Officers than were present at the demonstration the night before. The protest was allowed to continue, although the City Council was able to get through the consent portion of their agenda & reschedule the rest of the meeting for the 29th.
They chanted “Who’s chambers? Our chambers!” as they occupied the building at the start of the City Council meeting, and as the city officials retreated into various locked doors and back office exits, the chant turned to “No justice, no peace!” The protesters followed city officials through the building to a back office door which required a key code for entry and had a sign reading “employees only”. The amplifier was towed along with the group to that door, where the group chanted “Arcata, Arcata, you can’t hide!
You must solve this homicide!”
Speakers took turns making statements into the mic regarding their support of the protest and the need to advance the investigation in the David Josiah Lawson murder case. The committee for Justice for Josiah believes that retired F.B.I. Investigator Tom Parker could have provided valuable insights and experience to the investigation. They maintain that the City of Arcata should allow him to assist in the investigation, as a pro bono investigator.
As the group maintained control of the public space, inviting people to come to the dais and speak their minds, City Council members Susan Ornelas, Brett Watson, Paul Pitino, Michael Winkler, and Mayor Sophia Perrera left the building.
Not long after, a tense altercation occurred between three police officers and a member of the Justice for Josiah group at the front door. The heated interaction resulted from a decision by the City Council to not allow people to re-enter the building saying the City
Hall Chambers were now “closed for business” because the City Council had closed its session. As the crowd shifted from the dais to the front door, several more police showed up, outside and inside the building. People in the group filmed the interaction for documentation purposes, in case of any misstep by the police, said a legal observer who was present. The group was not informed that the doors were being closed to the public until after some members were already barred from entering.
The door was abruptly closed by four officers guarding the doorway, causing people to be pushed out of the way, including the protester who was initially refused entry.
Interim Arcata Police Chief Ehle took the situation under control by forcibly shutting the door while physically removing an individual from the doorway. The loudspeaker was used to chant about freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and soon the chant became “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
A vocal representative of the Justice for Josiah committee, Renee Saucedo of Centro Del Pueblo spoke passionately into the mic, recounting the event that just took place for the cameras recording the interaction in the room. “We have a first amendment right to protest!” She went on to vocalize the dissent of the group, saying “I affirm tonight that members of our group, members of this very community, who pay taxes so that these police officers can do their jobs, they are being denied their First Amendment right to speak and protest in the Arcata City Council Chambers! Unacceptable!”
Ehle explained it was an unlawful assembly, then backtracked, when Saucedo proclaimed over the microphone, “The Arcata City Council is saying that we are unlawfully assembled, that we don’t have their permission to be here… this public place…. and the Police Chief is putting his hands on one of the members of this group.”
A discussion was had about the legality of the protest, which quickly turned to putting pressure the Chief for details on the developments in the Lawson case. Interim Chief Ehle then turned to address the crowd, answering question about the progress of the investigation. Ehle made a statement in response to a question about progress on the case, saying that he was confident that he could potentially wrap up the investigation within 6-8 weeks time, with the new resources & personnel directed to the case.
Meanwhile, City Manager Karen Diemer had spoken privately via telephone with Parker regarding the resources newly allocated to the investigation, and according to Ehle, Parker agreed that he can not continue to assist in the investigation. According to the North Coast Journal, this statement by Ehle was disputed by Parker, who is
quoted saying that he had said no such thing. Parker maintains that he would help with the Lawson case if the City of Arcata would ask.
Six new officers have been hired exclusively for the Lawson case, including three homicide investigators, one is a cold case homicide detective from the Bay Area with extensive experience in murder cases. An additional 100,000 dollars from the City of Arcata has been allocated and resources have been requested, after 16 months of no big developments.
“Let me tell you, we are very close. This stuff distracts us to a degree, it doesn’t distract us too much, but it does distract me. But we are very close. In other jurisdictions, I think we could get a charge right now,” Chief Ehle told the group.
Ehle also said that there were only a handful of interviews still to be conducted with witnesses in the area. Witnesses are still being encouraged to come forward, and interviews have been done a second time.
With the ongoing lack of transparency from the City of Arcata in regard to Parker’s involvement, the Justice for Josiah committee remains hopeful that with these newly allocated resources and expert personnel devoted to the investigation, that the Arcata Police Dept will be able to follow through on the timeline the Chief projected, and be able to present a prosecutable case.
The Justice for Josiah committee is a group of self-described grassroots activist of various backgrounds and community groups, including members of Centro Del Pueblo, The Green Party of Humboldt County, members of the local NAACP chapter and students from HSU, among others. They have vowed to take their monthly vigil for Josiah Lawson indoors every 15th, at the Arcata City Hall, until the case is solved.
Earlier Stories about David Josiah Lawson:
- 19-Year-Old HSU Student Dies After Stabbing in Arcata Early This Morning
- 23-Year-Old McKinleyville Resident Arrested in Connection with HSU Student’s Stabbing Death
- HSU Offers Students Who Witnessed Stabbing Death Amnesty for Breaking School Rules; Asks Cooperation With Police
- Arcata Police Not Releasing Photo of Suspect in Stabbing Death for Now
- APD Received Anonymous Email About Fatal Stabbing; Pleads With Writer to Come Forward
- Celebration of the Life of Stabbing Victim Will be Held at Humboldt State University Today; Racial Bias Alleged to Have Led to Death
- Hundreds Mourn Slain HSU Student at Thursday Vigil
- Uncle of Fatal Stabbing Suspect Writes Letter to the Editor Urging Community Re-examine Public Statements Made in the Case
- Family of Arcata Stabbing Suspect Claims the Real Killer Has Not Been Caught (Includes Timeline of Events as Presented in Public Statements by Those at the Party)
- HSU and Arcata Police Issue Statements Following Release of Kyle Zoellner in the Stabbing Death of David Josiah Lawson
- District Attorney’s Office Issues Statement as Defendant in Racially Charged Case Released
- Family of Kyle Zoellner Who Was Released Today in Stabbing Death Issues Statement to Family and Friends of Victim
- Justice for Josiah Gathering Keeps Arcata Lively Tonight; Another Protest Called for Tomorrow
- Letter to the Community of Arcata from Kyle Zoellner’s Uncle
- Chanting “‘Justice for Josiah,’ Protesters Gather at the Courthouse
- Family Announces $10,000 Reward for Information Leading to Conviction of Killer of David Josiah Lawson
- APD Chief and Victim’s Mother Offer Updates on the Stabbing Death of David Josiah Lawson
- Letter From Family Member Questions Testimony of Witnesses in Hearing About Kyle Zoellner’s Possible Role in the Death of David Josiah Lawson
- ‘Reckless Statements’ Were Made by Tom Parker, and Lawson Attorney, Shelley Mack, Writes Uncle of Kyle Zoellner in Letter to the Editor
- Protestors Take Over Arcata City Council Meeting Demanding Justice for Josiah