Demonstrators in Aurora, Colorado Saturday are calling for justice for Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after being attacked by city police officers in August 2019, and rejecting the reassignment of the officers involved and a promised investigation into the death as insufficient.
“This shouldn’t be a moment,” protester Franklin Williams told the Denver Post. “This should be a movement.”
There’s going to be a big rally for Elijah McClain later today in Aurora. To understand how we got this point, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to hear from Elijah’s mother, Sheneen. https://t.co/XZxeNi7Kg2
— Alex Burness (@alex_burness) June 27, 2020
The details of McClain’s death are harrowing. The young man, an introverted violinist with anemia—necessitating wearing a mask when the temperature dropped—was stopped by police the night of August 24, 2019 for no discernible reason.
Officers manhandled McClain, putting him into a chokehold, threatened him, and arrested him. EMTs later injected McClain with 500mg of ketamine. McClain suffered a heart attack and was brain dead three days later; he was taken off of life support on August 30, 2019.
McClain’s mother Sheneen told the Denver Post in an interview published Saturday that while she appreciated the movement for her son, she was disappointed it hadn’t come earlier. Sheneen also said she was upset that it took the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers to provoke Saturday’s protests.
“The selective protesting, the selective accountability, is terrible in America,” she said. “So many times we don’t do what’s right until other people do it first.”
Renewed attention to the case led Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, to order (pdf) on June 25 a new investigation into the killing.
“Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern,” Polis said in a statement announcing the investigation.
The officers’ treatment of Elijah McClain was contrasted with the department’s arrest of white mass shooter James Holmes, who was taken into custody without incident after killing 12 people and wounding 70 at the premiere of the movie The Dark Knight Rises in 2012.
The reassignment of the three officers who arrested McClain, reported Friday, was not seen as enough by critics of the police and governmental responses to the death.
“Not good enough,” tweeted writer Adrienne Law. “We must keep the pressure. Elijah McClain and his family deserve justice.”