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Siskiyou County's Hmong community prepares for rally in Yreka stirred by police shooting

Organizers of the Saturday rally say that they will be demanding justice for the death of 35-year-old Soobleej Hawj, killed in a confrontation with law enforcement during the Lava Fire evacuations.

Posted: Jul 16, 2021 12:19 PM
Updated: Jul 16, 2021 12:59 PM

YREKA, Calif. — Members of Siskiyou County's Hmong community plan to again hold a rally in Yreka, billed as a vigil for the death of a 35-year-old Hmong man who was shot by police during a confrontation outside of the Mount Shasta Vista Subdivision at the end of June.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office on Thursday identified the man as Soobleej Kaub Hawj. The county District Attorney's office is heading an investigation into the officer-involved shooting. According to the Sheriff's Office initial statement, Hawj raised a handgun and "may have fired several rounds" before multiple officers shot and killed him.

The rally, scheduled for this Saturday, has drawn the attention of Hmong leaders at a national level. According to organizers, the event will feature guest speaker Mai Vang, a member of the Sacramento City council; activist Tou Ger Xiong from Minnesota; and Hmong singer and songwriter Tsabmim Xyooj.

St. Paul, Minnesota city council members Nelsie Yang and Dai Thao also joined the call for action on Friday. California and Minnesota host the largest Hmong populations in the U.S.

“There needs to be accountability. The Sheriff’s Office made a mistake by killing an innocent man in front of his wife and 3 kids," said Thao in a statement. "It’s horrifying, shameful and a major blunder. He and his department should be held accountable. The sheriff and his department can’t be judge, jury and executioner. This will only further drift the relationship between the community and law enforcement.”


RELATED: Lava Fire evacuation order inflames tensions around Mount Shasta Vista Subdivision


Organizers have highlighted the efforts of 33-year-old Zurg Xiong, a Hmong man who pledged to go on a hunger strike in front of the Siskiyou County courthouse during a July 6 protest. Xiong is now on the eleventh day of his hunger strike, according to supporters. Attendees of the rally have been asked to avoid bringing food or snacks to the event in honor of Xiong's mission.

The St. Paul civic leaders laid out a list of demands for Siskiyou County authorities that the rally hopes to emphasize. They are asking that law enforcement release all body or dashcam footage from the fatal shooting, in addition to holding the officers involved accountable for "unnecessary use of force."

Members of the Hmong community claim that officers fired dozens of rounds at Hawj during the deadly encounter — often saying that as many as 60 shots were fired. The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office has not addressed particulars in the case beyond a relatively brief initial statement and a follow-up that identified Hawj, citing the ongoing DA investigation.

Thao and Yang also said that they demand charges be dropped against 14 Hmong men arrested for entering the Lava Fire evacuation zone, an investigation be launched into claims that CalFire dumped Hmong water supplies, and the ordinances on water shipping into the Mount Shasta Vista area be rescinded.

Finally, the two council members called for a transparent and external investigation into Siskiyou County authorities for "corruption, racial profiling and racially motivated water restriction ordinances that unfairly target the Hmong community."

The rally is set to begin at noon on Saturday, July 17, in front of the Siskiyou County courthouse at 411 4th Street in Yreka. Organizers have said that this is a peaceful vigil to remember Hawj, saying that no violence will be condoned.

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