Hundreds gather in Hopkinton after death of 16-year-old Mikayla Miller

Around+500+people+gathered+in+the+Hopkinton+Town+Common+on+May+6+to+remember+the+life+of+Mikayla+Miller.

Ben Schanzer

Around 500 people gathered in the Hopkinton Town Common on May 6 to remember the life of Mikayla Miller.

By Ben Schanzer and Riya Mahanta

A vigil was held at the Hopkinton Town Common to mourn the loss of Mikayla Miller, a 16-year-old girl, on Thursday, May 6.

Miller was found dead in Hopkinton on April 18, reportedly tied to a tree in a wooded area near her home. Some, including Miller’s family, believe that Miller’s race and sexuality may have been factors in her death and the investigation of the case. Miller, a sophomore at Hopkinton High School, was Black and gay. 

The vigil and rally, which had approximately 500 attendees, were organized by a group called Violence in Boston in Miller’s hometown. Many who attended the vigil felt that Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan and the investigation haven’t been transparent enough. 

“Due to the lack of urgency for some, I’ve had to not only be the grieving mother but also put pressure on the DA Marian Ryan, who I did not hear from until 12 days after Mikayla’s death,” Mikayla’s mother Calvina Strothers said during a speech to the crowd.

Ryan denied this claim in a press conference on May 4.

“We have also been in close, almost daily communication with Mikayla’s family representative,” Ryan said during the press conference.

Middlesex District Attorney's Office

According to Strothers, the police told her that her daughter committed suicide, and Ryan’s office ruled the death as non-suspicious. However, Ryan again contradicted this claim during the press conference.

“A ruling as to the manner and cause of death has not yet been received,” Ryan said.

Strothers also claims that she was warned by a member of the state police not to make Miller’s case public.

“Sergeant Sean O’Brien from the Millbury State Trooper Barracks also made it clear that we should not go to the media because they would distort the truth, and her sexuality as a member of the LGBTQ community would be exposed as if we didn’t know already,” Strothers said. “And that has no relevance to getting justice.”

Many people think that recent media coverage is the sole reason this case is getting attention.

“Nothing was said about the death of Mikayla Miller until the media got involved,” Hopkinton freshman Rylee Blair said.

“The fact that [the death of Mikayla Miller] hasn’t been on the news this whole time even though it happened two weeks ago is part of the reason we are here,” Framingham senior Joy Kunda said.

In 2019, Hopkinton was named the safest town in America according to a SafeWise report. However, some members of the community do not seem to agree.

“The reason this town is named one of the safest in America, in my opinion, is not because crimes do not occur, but because crime is only selectively reported in this community,” Strothers said.

Other parents agree with Miller’s mother as well.

“We used to live [in Hopkinton] for 10 years,” parent Nicole Young said. “[My daughter] went to school here and there was never any inclusion. There was never any diversity.  This was a town waiting for this to happen and they never did anything about it.”

Miller’s death is personal to many Black community members—even those who never knew her.

“[Her death] means my daughter is not safe; it means my mother is not safe; it means my grandmother is not safe; it means anyone who looks like me is not safe at all,” Frederick Halleluyah, a Black man, said.

Due to their belief that the current investigation is not being conducted with transparency, Strothers and others are calling for an independent federal investigation.

Towards the end of the vigil, Monica Cannon-Grant, founder of Violence in Boston, called upon the crowd to go home peacefully and call the DA, demanding that she resign.

“This District Attorney and the police department have proven that they can not be transparent and be accountable even in a situation where a 16-year-olds child is lost,” Cannon-Grant said. “So we want an independent investigation. I want everybody here to call DA Ryan and tell her to remove herself.”

Strothers, Cannon-Grant and other community members have just one request: justice for Mikayla Miller. 

“I don’t want to be a vigilante on this,” Strothers said. “I don’t want to have to spend all day on the phone getting evidence and passing it along in order for justice to be served. What I want is for the criminal justice system to work.”

This story was originally published on The Harbinger on May 10, 2021.