YREKA, Calif. --- Members of Siskiyou County's Hmong community rallied outside the Siskiyou County courthouse on Tuesday after a week that saw smoldering tensions between the Hmong and county authorities become animated by the Lava Fire.
The Mount Shasta Vista Subdvision, where many of the Hmong own property, was placed under an evacuation order on June 28 as the Lava Fire made a big push to the north. From the beginning, evacuation efforts in the subdivision went sour, as some of the residents — distrustful of the fire crews and Sheriff's Office deputies — insisted on staying behind to fight the fire.
During that time, a Hmong man was fatally shot by officers as they tried to keep him out of the Mount Shasta Vista evacuation zone. The Sheriff's Office said that the man pointed and perhaps fired a gun at the officers.
"When that fire came and when the emergency services watched us fight that fire, when we heard our people despair and fight — we despaired because we weren't there with them," said Zurg Xiong. "And that's why our brother died because he answered the call."
Members in the Hmong community gathered outside of the Siskiyou County courthouse Tuesday to call for justice in the matter. They say the unfair treatment of their people is ongoing — that they are being unfairly targeted over water usage, as the County employs new ordinances to crack down on water shipments to the marijuana grows that dot Mount Shasta Vista.
Xiong, an activist and advocate in the Siskiyou County Hmong community, says he will go on a hunger strike outside of the courthouse until a change is seen.
“I've seen love and I've seen power. My people have shown me that I can really love them because of what had they've been doing. That's why I'm here,” Xiong said.
"They pegged me as a leader, and I'm gonna show them what a leader is. That’s why I’m going on that hunger strike because I’m a leader. I don’t have any political power, I have no money . . . ” Xiong continued. "They want to starve us out of our homes. If they want to starve us out of our homes and re-colonize our land, then I will starve in front of an American courthouse."
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said that any time a life is lost it is tragic, and there is an ongoing investigation into the shooting last week. He also added that there have been attempts to improve relationships between law enforcement and the Hmong community in the past, but to no avail.