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Policing in the United States has been rooted in slavery, brutality, and injustice since its origin in slave patrols. In the layered systems of oppression that we live under (colonization, white supremacy, patriarchy, and other class oppressions), the police are tasked with enforcing illegitimate hierarchies and unjust laws on behalf of the ruling class. For as long as there have been police, there has also been organized struggle and resistance against them. The abolitionist movement, also finding its origin in early U.S. slavery, has been an ongoing movement against the system of policing, especially strong and active during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, and experiencing a significant revival  since the 2020 uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd.

Policing behind the Redwood Curtain has never been an exception to the nationwide system of policing, enforcing the same oppressive hierarchies with the same level of brutality, and enjoying the same lack of consequences for their extra-judicial beatings and slayings of our community members. While many local people who do not belong to vulnerable communities have been blind to the reality of the police terror that exists here, it has become impossible to deny in recent weeks with the exposure of the racist, misogynistic, anti-homeless, downright frightening text messages sent between officers of the Eureka Police Department. While the content of the messages were disturbing and disgusting enough to prompt calls for the firing of the officers involved, they are thoroughly unsurprising to those who belong to populations that experience routine harassment from the police. For those who have been experiencing, or paying attention, to the routine abuse doled out by police, there is a measure of frustration at seeing the shocked reactions to these text messages from the broader population, while so many abusive actions taken by our local police seem to be met with apathy, if they are noticed at all. We suspect that this may be due, at least in part, to the sparse reporting done by local news media when it comes to police abuses, while the same media outlets heavily report and sensationalize illegal activity, along with any little good deed that law enforcement manages. It is almost as if much of the local news media acts as law enforcement’s PR department, which is perhaps the reason that the text messages were initially shared with a media outlet from out of the area.

Redwood Curtain Copwatch, beginning in approximately 2005, kept a record of individuals who were murdered by law enforcement behind the Redwood Curtain. The following is a (perhaps incomplete) list of those lives lost to local police violence that we have compiled to the best of our ability, with the help of the Redwood Curtain Copwatch website (active from approximately 2005 to 2019) and what we could find from other local media outlets since 2019:

John Sieger 
Angel Farias Hernandez   Daniel Sylvester  
David Sequioa   Eloy Infante-Toscano
Gabriel Muldenado
David Cleveland James “Hans” Peters    Jonni Honda  Mariano Lopez Fernandez
Robert Garth
Martin Cotton
Peter Stewart
Zachary Cooke
Christopher Burgess
Tommy McClain
Cheri Lynn Moore
Richard Frederick Estrada
Tina Reed 
John Lewis
David Fulton
John Lewis
James Randall
Dwight Hostler
Raymond Eacret
Mark Nelson
Jacob Newmaker
And through gross neglect, David Josiah Lawson.

Again, this list only includes those lives lost since approximately 2005. Since Redwood Curtain Copwatch disbanded, Humboldt Grassroots has attempted to fulfill the task of record keeping when it comes to those lost to police violence, though it is impossible to say how many have been killed by police more passively, like the houseless who die of exposure after having their survival gear confiscated by police, which is an occurrence you can hear about any day of the week from folks living outdoors. We have been organizing  in resistance to the police since 2007, alongside others, and we are grateful to see more groups come together to take on this important work locally within the past year, like READ (Radical Education and Abolition Development), Humboldt Defund, and Abolish Humboldt, along with a heartening number of unaffiliated individuals.

The problems with policing run deep and there are no simple solutions. We know that the system of policing is not broken; it is functioning in precisely the way it was intended to from the beginning, and no amount of reform will fix a system that is rotten to its core. As the unjust nature of policing has revealed itself again and again, it is clearly time for us all to get to work in finding better ways of dealing with our societal ills, to achieve real justice.

For more on resistance and justice work being done locally, stay tuned for an upcoming expanded article and updates here. If you have anything you would like to share with us about local law enforcement, local resistance, or if you would like to learn more about our work in the community, you can message us on the Humboldt Grassroots Facebook or Instagram, or email us at humboldtgrassroots at riseup dot net or at humboldtgrassroots at gmail.

This film presents themes of the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement , from the civil rights voices of the 60s to the current international uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.