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The Mass Media

Vigil and rally held for 16-year old Mikayla Miller as community searches for answers regarding her death


Photograph of Mikayla Miller.

On Thursday, May 6, a vigil was held for 16-year-old Mikayla Miller, a Black, LGBTQIA+ identifying girl from Hopkinton, Massachusetts. The vigil also served as a rally for those who believe not enough investigation has been conducted regarding Miller’s cause of death. 

Hundreds of supporters showed up to the Hopkinton Town Green, right by the Boston Marathon starting line. Supporters held signs reading “Justice for Mikayla,” and many brought flowers. 

Mikayla Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, gave an emotional speech to the crowd at the rally. She said she and her daughter were “two peas in a pod,” and criticized the lack of transparency from the Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan.

“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 twelve days after Mikayla’s death,” said Strothers at the rally.

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

The rally was organized by Monica Cannon-Grant—the founder of Violence in Boston—and former Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, both of whom spoke at the rally as well.

“Imagine she [Mikayla] was white and five Black kids beat her up one night and the next morning she was found dead,” said Jackson, according to CNN. “Now open your eyes, open your eyes, and see the truth that we know—that if Mikayla was a young, white girl, we wouldn’t be here two and a half weeks after.”

On April 18, Miller was found dead, hanging from a tree in a wooded area near the apartment complex in which she lived. Community members have taken to social media to call the death a lynching followed by a subsequent police cover-up. 

Originally, police told Strothers that the death was a suicide, and the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office dubbed the death “non-suspicious.” However, Strothers and many members of the community question the accuracy of these initial claims. 

The night before, Miller had been engaged in a confrontation between her and five other teenagers, who were white and Latino. Two of the teenagers physically attacked her, giving her a bloody lip. 

About two and a half hours after the fight took place, it was alleged that data from Miller’s phone indicated that she walked roughly 1,300 steps—about the same distance between Miller’s residence and the location where she was found dead the next day. However, a statement made by Strothers in her speech at the rally contradicts this claim.

“Instead of actually getting proof, they [the authorities] Googled the number of steps from my home to the location where she was found, and used that as their proof on national television,” said Strothers. “What we know is that Mikayla’s phone was not activated, and therefore [it is] nearly impossible to track her exact steps between 9 and 10 p.m., which was confirmed by me from Apple.”

Ryan’s office did not release information surrounding Miller’s death publicly until Tuesday, May 4—more than two weeks after Miller’s death occurred. At the Tuesday press conference, Ryan discussed her office’s use of video footage, witness statements, E-Z Pass records, and cellphone records to confirm that none of the teenagers involved in the fight with Miller were with her in the woods later that night. There are currently no pending charges against the teenagers involved in the fight. 

Miller’s family and other activists from the community are calling for an independent investigation. Cannon-Grant has stated that Violence in Boston would be conducting its own autopsy, independent of the DA’s office. Ryan claims that there is no cover-up occurring regarding the investigation, and called Miller’s death an “unspeakable tragedy” in her press conference. She emphasized that the investigation was still ongoing. 

Miller was a sophomore at Hopkinton High, where she played basketball and was an honors student. She wanted to study journalism at a historically Black college, and her mother had been planning college visits for the summer.