On June 30 Humboldt County became one of hundreds of other communities where the people marched in solidarity to demand the liberation of immigrant families imprisoned in concentration camps (a.k.a detention centers) and called for the abolition of ICE which continues to be utilized as a tool of the U.S. colonial capitalist regime.
The Humboldt Keep Families Together March took place in Old Town Eureka and was primarily organized by the Humboldt County Democratic Party, however members from Centro del Pueblo, a local immigrant rights organization, asserted themselves within the organizing space and demanded that they be centered in the event as the true representatives of the immigrant community rather than a party that represents the interests of the capitalist class. Some of the local unions such as the Central Labor Council stood in solidarity with Centro del Pueblo recognizing that the immigrant struggle is inherently connected to the workers struggle. As a result Centro del Pueblo played a central role in the Keep Families Together March.
A rally began at 10 AM as a crowd of over 3,000 people were addressed by Renee Saucedo, a longtime activist and Centro del Pueblo member, who emceed the event. Throughout the rally Saucedo introduced speakers from local revolutionary grassroots organizations. The organizations who came in support and provided a radical message included Centro del Pueblo, True North Organizing Network, Humboldt County Green Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation and MeCHA. Together these organizations provided a revolutionary message within the rally that addressed the local issues (Humboldt County Sanctuary Initiative, the abolition of ICE, Justice for Josiah and removal the McKinley Statue) and connected them to national and international issues. The local issues were used to explain how U.S. imperialism created the conditions for the exploitation of the working class abroad and the division of the working class based on race as demonstrated in the murder of Josiah Lawson.
When the rally ended Centro del Pueblo lead and other group lead the people on a march through Old Town Eureka. At one point during the march the crowd stopped outside the Department of Homeland Security chanting “Abolish ICE!” Half a dozen counterprotesters near the endpoint of the march were quickly surrounded as the crowd marched through and drowned out with chants calling for the abolition of ICE and in support of the Humboldt County Sanctuary Initiative.
ICE Out of Humboldt
As a follow up to the Keep Families Together March on July 2 a group of about 50 community members rallied in front of the local Eureka DHS office. The rally was organized by Centro del Pueblo, Humboldt County Green Party, Humboldt Move to Amend, Cooperation Humboldt, Humboldt PSL, along with MeCHA de HSU and the local Justice for Josiah movement. The focus of this rally was to make visible the connections between the many local struggles currently taking place and their relationship with the entrenched racism in Humboldt County. There had originally been intentions to take space inside the DHS office and to prevent business as usual but the office had not opened up that morning, presumably in response to the rally.
Demands from this rally included an end to ICE and the separations of families inside the U.S. illegitimate borders, removal of Arcata’s William McKinley statue placed in the center of town, justice for Josiah Lawson, a local HSU student of color who was murdered early in 2017 in a racially motivated conflict in Arcata, and an end to white supremacy. All of these demands are reflections of the effort gaining momentum in Humboldt County to create solidarity between movements and people, with the knowledge that we’re stronger together. Speaking in front of the crowd from a small, boxy portable amplifier, Renee Saucedo, Centro del Pueblo member eloquently stated “It’s all related, it’s all connected, it’s about how they treat our families. If they don’t give a s— about us, then we’re gonna stand up for our families.”
Next steps for Humboldt County
Over the past year local grassroots organizations have been addressing key issues inherently linked to the symptoms of capitalism. On the county level, Centro del Pueblo has been pushing to make Humboldt County a sanctuary county after successfully making the City of Arcata a sanctuary city back in 2017. This push is to defend the undocumented community which remains the target of capitalist exploitation and ICE raids. While sanctuary ordinances are normally approved at the level of city and county governance, the push to make Humboldt County a sanctuary is one that will be voted on in the November election. The Humboldt County Sanctuary Initiative was launched in early February after local county politicians refused to take a stand on issues affecting the undocumented community. In a period of three months Centro del Pueblo with support from 15 other organizations gathered over 6,000 petition signatures to place the issue on the November ballot. If passed Humboldt County would become the first county in the nation to be declared a sanctuary by voters.
In Arcata the fate of the McKinley Statue has also been placed as an issue on the November ballot. While the Arcata City Council voted four to one to remove the McKinley statue from the Arcata Plaza on February 21, a racist group was created in response to the decision. This group initially targeted the Arcata City Council to reverse their decision but ended up submitting legal paperwork, with the assistance of City Council member Michael Winkler, to place the McKinley statue issue on the November ballot before Arcata voters. In a period of three weeks the group gathered 1,000 signatures, through the utilization of unquestionable and unethical tactics, which was enough to the place the McKinley statue issue on the November ballot. All progressive and revolutionary people should support the campaign to make Humboldt County a sanctuary county as well as to remove the McKinley Statue from Arcata Plaza.