The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has no evidence the Ku Klux Klan is organized in McKinleyville or anywhere else in Humboldt County.

Sheriff Honsal

Racially motivated crime certainly occurs locally, but there is not a lot of evidence of it, says Sheriff William Honsal.

Years of unsubstantiated rumors that McKinleyville has a covert KKK chapter have received renewed attention in the wake of the unsolved killing case of Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson. He died of stab wounds inflicted at a college party on Easter weekend in Arcata.

Lawson’s death has resulted in extensive public discussions of local racism. Honsal welcomes the dialogue and the fresh attention to the subject.

The sheriff lauded Humboldt State’s fostering of multi-cultural diversity via its institutional Campus Dialogue on Race and related initiatives.

He also noted that literally hundreds of friendly and good natured weekend college parties involving multiple races take place during the academic year.


“Multiple races from all over the county take part; they interact and there are no problems whatsoever,” he emphasized.

The sheriff challenged the generalization that Lawson’s alleged white-on-black killing, a single, isolated incident, was grounds for indicting county race relations as a whole.      

“To say the community is racist based on that one incident – the evidence doesn’t support that,” he said in a recent interview.

Racial tensions do surface in Humboldt County, he said, and “talking about it can only help things. The McKinleyville discussion will help alleviate a lot of rumors that are out there.”

Mack Town’s Municipal Advisory Committee has placed the issue of racism on the agenda of its August monthly meeting, tentatively scheduled for Aug 30. 

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Paul Mann writes for the Mad River Union. Subscribe here.