By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent
Photos by Amanda Kim
Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of the Siskiyou County Courthouse in Northern California Saturday outraged at the death of Hmong American father and farmer, Soobleej Kaub Hawj, at the hands of county sheriff deputies.
Supporters who reached out to AsAmNews say sheriff deputies shot and killed Hawj on June 28 as he was escaping the Lava Fire with his family. However, authorities told KDVR Hawj tried to enter the evacuated subdivision and “may have fired several rounds” when officers returned fire, killing him.
Demonstrators are demanding an independent investigation and transparent in this case.
Community activist Zurg Xiong, 33, is in the 12th day of a hunger strike demanding justice.
“I made a promise our wars will no longer be secret,” he said before the march. “We will no longer suffer in silence.
“I want to say to the family of our lost brother, Hawj. I know your hearts scream with despair. If you will allow us to share with your grief, we will drown it out with a symphony of compassion we see today.”
Hawj is survived by his wife and three children, ages 5-15 years old.
Hawj’s death has galvanized the Hmong American community nationwide. Hmong TV News, based in Minneapolis, streamed the rally live. Activist Tou Ger Xiong, came out from Minnesota to lead the rally.
“We’ve had enough,” he told the protesters. “We’re sick of it.”
He encouraged everyone to march peacefully and not get arrested.
A group of Hmong soldiers who fought a CIA-led secret war in Laos from 1962-1975 led the demonstrators through the streets of Yreka, at the northern edge of California near the Oregon border.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department says all the officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave.
On Wednesday, the Sheriff’s office released its latest statement on the matter.
“Officer Involved Shootings are complex investigations that take time to thoroughly investigate,” the Sheriff’s Office said to Action News Now. “There are certain details surrounding this incident that have not been made public as the investigation is ongoing; however, in the future, once the investigation is completed, a thorough report of the incident will be made public. We ask for your patience and understanding as this investigation is being completed.”
The California drought and subsequent water restrictions have lead to increased tensions between illegal marijuana grows in the area and the county. 14 Hmong farmers have been arrested for evading evacuation orders.
Hmong farmers argued they were trying to protect their property because they allege the local fire department was not protecting the subdivision heavily populated by Hmong farmers from the 19 square mile Lava Fire.
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