Protesters rally against ICE and McKinley statue, for justice for Josiah

July 3, 2018
Hunter Cresswell

On Monday morning, more than 60 protesters and community members gathered on an Old Town Eureka sidewalk to protest against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE — operations in Humboldt County, racism, the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexican border, the statue of President William McKinley on the Arcata Plaza and for resolution in the 2017 stabbing death of David Josiah Lawson.

The event came out of a collaboration between Humboldt County Move to Amend, Centro Del Pueblo, the Green Party of Humboldt County and Cooperation Humboldt, event organizer, chair of the local Green Party and Move to Amend organizations Kelsey Reedy said.

“We are here to make a statement,” she said into a microphone standing outside an office building that houses the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Eureka Inspection field office.

“This is not a location of ICE, but this is the closest we have to that locally,” she said.

The group planned to move the protest inside the customs field office but it’s closed until Thursday for the Fourth of July holiday.

The latest rally came two days after a larger Centro Del Pueblo-organized “Families Belong Together” march which coincided with hundreds of marches across the country that decried the current immigration policies at the border.

On Monday morning, people held signs that had slogans such as “kick the wall, vote in the fall,” “Whose children are next?” “Abolish ICE,” “¡Familias unidas, no divididas!” and more.

The gathered people sang and chanted “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! ICE has got to go,” “No papers, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” and more.

People walking by stopped to join the crowd and some cars driving by honked or gave a thumbs up to the rally.

Renee Saucedo of the Centro Del Pueblo steering committee took the microphone several times to speak to the gathered crowd.

“I feel really sorrowful hearing those children call out for their parents. That’s why we’re here,” she said.

Saucedo said immigrant families are experiencing trauma at the border and beyond due to immigration policies.

“It’s not just happening in Texas or Arizona, but in Humboldt County,” she said.

Saucedo called for all groups to come together in this struggle.

“We’re all family,” she said. “ ... There’s no better way to wake up on a Monday morning than with all you here.”

The microphone, hooked up to a small speaker sitting on the ground, was passed around to anyone willing to take it and share their experience or thoughts.

Erik Rydberg was one of several community members to do so.

“The idea of American exceptionalism is the problem,” he said.

Rydberg also said calling this an immigrant county is inaccurate because it was built on native land.

“We’re not going to let this white supremacist domination of this country to continue,” he said to the applause of the crowd.

Rydberg was also one of several people to speak about the statue of McKinley at the center of the Arcata Plaza. A decades long debate about the statues placement made headlines again beginning in late-2017 when a group of Arcata community members again called for the bronze likeness of the 25th president to come down, calling it a symbol of white supremacy, manifest destiny and settler colonialism.

“We need to bring down that racist statue, McKinley, in Arcata,” Rydberg said.

Saucedo introduced Charmaine Lawson — whose 19-year-old son was fatally stabbed outside an Arcata house party in April 2017 and whose killing has yet to be solved — and said the struggles for immigrants’ rights, historic justice and racial justice is all related.

“I’m here not just for my son but also the immigrant families,” Lawson said. “It’s unfortunate we have a president who doesn’t care about our families and we have a city, Arcata, that doesn’t care about my son.”

She later led the crowd in chats and songs calling for justice for her son.

Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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