Saturday, 15 May 2021

Thousands expected to protest Elijah’s McClain’s death in Aurora

Hundreds of people gathered outside Aurora’s police department headquarters Saturday afternoon to call for justice for Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old who died after an encounter with officers last August.

One protester came out to show support and make sure the fervor continues.

“This shouldn’t be a moment,” Franklin Williams, 25, said. “This should be a movement.”

Before the protest began, Aurora police issued a statement in support of peaceful protest and warned of “outsiders” whose goal, police say, is to be destructive. Both the nearby library and City Hall were boarded up.

The day of demonstrations, organized by the Denver chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, began with a 1 p.m. rally and march, a 4 p.m. youth-led protest at the Municipal Center and an 8:30 p.m. violin vigil at Aurora City Center Park.

McClain’s death prompted a handful of small protests over the past 10 months but he has recently become known across the country in the wake of massive protests following the death of George Floyd.

The renewed attention and relentless activism prompted Gov. Jared Polis this week to appoint Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor to investigate McClain’s death, and, potentially, file charges.

Dave Young, the 17th Judicial District Attorney, declined to bring charges against the three officers involved in McClain’s encounter, which was prompted by a call for a suspicious person. Young defended his decision this week, saying, “Ultimately, while I may share the vast public opinion that Elijah McClain’s death could have been avoided, it is not my role to file criminal charges based on opinion, but, rather, on the evidence revealed from the investigation and applicable Colorado law.”

The three officers — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema — were taken off street duty this month for their own safety, an Aurora spokesperson confirmed.

As celebrities have tweeted their outrage about her son’s death and national media outlets report on his story, Sheneen McClain wonders what took so long.

Protest organizers have already expressed concern at the police response to Saturday’s events, accusing the department of trying to intimidate protesters.

“The Aurora Police Department has responded by circulating rumors of a ‘violent threat’ in order to intimidate organizers and attendees and to justify mobilizing a militarized police response to crack down on protesters,” the Party for Socialism and Liberation said in a statement posted to Facebook. “APD has zeroed in particularly on the student protest leaders; perhaps the cops believe that, because of their youth, these organizers can be most easily intimidated. APD tracked down the identities of the student organizers, found their parents’ phone numbers, and called them to insinuate that they would be personally liable if injury or damage is caused at the protests.”

Faith Goodrich, an Aurora police spokeswoman, said in an email that police “reached out to one student protestor and voiced concerns that the protest scheduled before theirs may become unfriendly and spill over into their event. APD did not communicate to them that they would be held liable for damage or injuries.”


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