“You know that saying, ‘two peas in a pod’? That was us. My daughter was bright, funny, loving, caring and loved me to death. We had a bond that is indescribable.” — Calvina Strothers
More than a thousand people gathered for a vigil in Hopkinton, Mass., on May 6 in outrage and grief over the death of Mikayla Miller, an LGBTQ Black teenager whose body was found in the woods by her suburban home last month.
Calvina Strothers, Miller’s mother, told the crowd how her daughter loved traveling, food and the ocean, played basketball, and would make tea for her every night. Miller was a writer and wanted to study at a historically Black college or university to become a journalist. “Mikayla was only 16 years old. She was my bright and shining star in this crazy world.”
Witnesses saw Miller assaulted by five of her white peers earlier in the evening of April 17. Her body was found by a jogger, tied by the neck with a belt to a tree on the morning of April 18. When the police officers knocked on Strother’s door that day to give the news of her daughter’s death, they claimed Miller died by suicide, without completing an investigation or an autopsy.
Hopkinton, the ‘safest’ town in America
Strothers called the Hopkinton Police to make a report about the assault on the evening of April 17, and gave the names of her daughter’s attackers. But she was denied a copy of the files on both the assault and the discovery of Miller’s body when she requested them almost a week later. It took District Attorney Marian Ryan 12 days to contact her.
“Sergeant Sean O’Brien from the Millbury State Trooper Barracks made it clear that we should not go to the media as they would distort the truth, and her sexuality as a member of the LGBTQ community would be exposed. As if we didn’t know already,” Strothers said. “And that has no relevance to getting justice.”
“The reason this town is deemed one of the safest in America, in my opinion, is not because crimes do not occur, but because crime is only selectively reported in this community,” Strothers said during her speech. The family is calling for an independent investigation by an agency that is not the Hopkinton or Massachusetts State Police.
Family and community demand justice
The attendees at the vigil organized by Violence in Boston came not only from the Hopkinton community who knew Miller, but from across the state of Massachusetts. Boston resident Terri Hinton told Liberation News, “What about the next young Black girl that lives in Hopkinton? Is she gonna get murdered too? So does that mean that all Black people are not safe here in Hopkinton? What does this mean? How can we trust this community?”
Hopkinton resident Anita said, “I would like the FBI to investigate it because they investigate hate crimes and I do think this was a hate crime.”
“Her family asked us for help because the police are not doing their job. That is why I’m here,” another attendee named Sarah said. “This is ridiculous, it’s 2021, and I am 19. I have no business doing more justice than the damn police do.”
“I hope that the authorities know that the entire world is watching,” she continued. “We saw what you did when you saw a Black girl tied to a tree and you tried to deem it a suicide. We saw when you tried to lie to her family. We saw that it took Black activists to get a DA involved. I want you to know that the entire world is watching you act a fool right now.”
‘We’re coming for the facts‘
District Attorney Marian Ryan maintains that no cause of death has been announced, saying that the process takes around 90 days. But Miller’s family and community supporters maintain that this is a cover-up, and are demanding Ryan’s resignation.
If Strothers had not gone to the media, would there be an investigation at all? On her GoFundMe page, she writes, “The current investigation is ONLY occurring due to our family’s persistence, pressure and demands for transparency. Your support has been so helpful in our fight for accountability.”
“Cover-ups happen. The anti-cover-up is you. The anti-cover-up is us. The anti-cover-up is the spirit of being wounded but not broken,” said Sean Ellis, who spoke at the vigil. “Because that’s saying that no matter what, we’re coming for the facts. We’re not going to sit by and let the cover-up happen and the facts be concealed. It’s time for exposure.”
Attendees agreed. “We need to call Marian Ryan, ask her to resign, and have the FBI perform an independent investigation into Mikayla’s death,” said local resident Jaime Wronkra.
A growing movement for justice
Since Strothers went to the media against the advice of Hopkinton police, Miller’s death has become a national story, and has been covered by mainstream corporate media outlets, politicians, musical artists, and activist groups in other states. A growing movement is taking up the demands of the family and spreading awareness about the case using the hashtags #JusticeForMikayla and #MikaylaMiller.
“It makes me think of my own daughter,” Hopkinton resident Heidi told Liberation News. “I would go to the end of the Earth to find out what had happened to her. But then again, I don’t think this would be happening to my white daughter.”
Her daughter, also named Sarah, agreed. “I don’t feel comfortable with the way Hopkinton police have responded to things in our town growing up,” she said. “So I fully support an external investigation without them involved. I don’t trust them.”
The family is still demanding more transparency, an independent investigation of the case, forensic analysis on the belt Miller was found with, District Attorney Marian Ryan’s resignation, and the release of police reports of both the assault and the discovery of her body.
Miller’s family and organizers of the vigil are asking supporters to call the office of District Attorney Marian Ryan at 781-897-8300 to demand her resignation. Our readers can also support the ongoing struggle by donating to the GoFundMe to help Strothers cover the costs of an independent investigation, and to start a scholarship in Mikayla’s name.