Arcata, CA–Mothers, daughters, sisters and concerned residents of Arcata marched with Charmaine Lawson Wednesday evening to Arcata City Hall. Their demands were clear–bring back retired FBI Investigator Tom Parker to help solve the murder of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson.
It has now been a week since the City of Arcata found themselves within a whirlwind of controversy after the abrupt resignation of their Police Chief, Tom Chapman.
The news of his resignation came one day after Parker, the retired FBI investigator who was brought in via the family, terminated his contract with the city. He cited a lack of direction and cooperation from APD in the investigation.
Following his departure, Lawson’s mother filed a $500,000 claim for damages citing negligence in her son’s investigation.
During oral communications at this week’s city hall meeting, people were encouraged to speak during the allowed two-minute period–otherwise the city council would continue with the scheduled agenda.
Nothing that the city council heard Wednesday night, was anything different from what they had been hearing for the last year in city hall chambers.
The cries of feeling unsafe, the plea’s for help so that a mother will not have to fight for justice and can finally start the grieving process and the candidness from community members to the city that something seemed off about the investigation.
Only this time, it was not students of color relaying the message but mostly mothers and white women-residents of Arcata. Their feelings of disappointment seemed to affect Arcata’s City Manager Karen Diemer, who at times had tears in her eyes and a frown upon her face.
“I thought you were going to do the right thing, I waited a year. What are you going to do? We want justice for Josiah, we want Tom Parker back on the job with the crew that he wants to investigate this murder. Shame on Arcata.”
“Karen you have flat-out lied, which is so disappointing. This whole thing is so disappointing and it’s wrong and you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
“I am aware that I am standing on stolen Wiyot land, asking for justice for a Black man.”
“As people of color we feel vulnerable and we feel unsafe. We feel and recently learned, that being people of color in this community is maybe being murdered without any kind of justice.”
A few times during public comment city council member Michael Winkler was blatantly called out for his inflammatory public comments regarding communities of color, as well as his facial expressions when people are speaking which was refered to as a “scowl.”
At one point while Lawson’s mother was speaking, she called for Winkler to “stop looking at her like that.”
Winkler was also called into question over his behavior of going around soliciting signatures to send the McKinley statue to a ballot vote for Arcata residents after the city council voted to remove the statue 4-1.
Police Chief & Tom Parker
Questions about the interim police chief were brought up and Diemer responded that Bart Silvers is currently acting as chief, until an interim chief is finalized. She also stated that calls for police chief proposals have been sent out with the assistance of a firm.
After public comment, those present asked the city council to vote on bringing back Parker. The council opted instead to “give direction” by requesting that “more resources be allocated” to the city manager without specifying exactly what these resources should be.
The council was unaware if they could make any public comment due to the pending lawsuits against the city by the Lawson family.
“It’s easy to say [put it on the ballot] but I don’t know if that’s possible,” council member Paul Pitino said. “If not Tom Parker, then maybe some alternative assistance that’s sophisticated beyond what the city has.”
While on their usual break, the council quietly decided to adjourn the meeting. This happened without addressing the rest of the agenda items or a formal announcement.
Their announcement most likely would not have been heard, as Parker’s interview with KHSU blared from a portable speaker. Parker has been outspoken since his departure from the city but received a cease and desist from Arcata’s City Attorney Nancy Diamond April 17th.