Updated July 4 at 11:04 a.m.
Protesters surrounded Aurora’s District One police station Friday evening, vowing to remain until all the officers involved in Elijah McClain’s death are fired.
Much of the crowd left as the night wore on. But the group occupied the space around the police station for at least six hours, until the police dispersed the crowd in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
The demonstration, several hundred strong, started their march from the street corner where officers stopped Elijah McClain last August. In an open letter to Aurora’s Interim Police Chief, Vanessa Wilson, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which organized the protest, wrote “The whole world is watching Aurora and watching you. Fire Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard immediately. If you respond to our peaceful occupation with violence just like you did to the vigil last Saturday, you are choosing to injure protesters and deny their constitutional rights.”
After the sun went down Friday, large groups of people remained in front of each of the station’s entrances. Lillian House, an organizer with PSL, said they intend to keep building closed off as long as necessary.
“We are not storming the station tonight,” she said. “We’re going to sit here, because that’s our right. No one comes in, and no one goes out.”
The protest comes just hours after interim police chief Vanessa Wilson released a photo from last October of two officers re-enacting the kind of chokehold that was used on McClain, while standing near a memorial to him. One of those officers resigned earlier this week, while two others involved were fired. Wilson revealed the photo was sent to a couple of the officers who were involved in the McClain call. One, Jason Rosenblatt, responded “haha.” He was also fired.
At a press conference after the photo came out, McClain’s family urged people to remember his loving spirit as they keep pushing for reform.
“We stand united. We stand together. We bring you all with us,” said family friend Candice Bailey. “We ask that you stay with us and stand with us. Do not allow Elijah McClain’s death to be in vain. As they put their knees on our necks, we must put our foot on their’s. We are more powerful as a people than they are. We must rise now.”
Marcher Will Carter lives in the area and, at 26, is close to the age McClain was when he died last year. Carter believes demonstrations for McClain have drawn such large crowds because what happened to him shows that police brutality and systemic racism is everywhere — including in Aurora.
“All black lives matter, but when it happens close to home, it hits different,” Carter said. “But I think the fact that people see that something like that could happen here in our own city, I think that’s going to touch people differently.”
Early on the morning of July 4, police told protesters, “You have five minutes to leave,” according to 9News. Mayor Mike Coffman tweeted later in the morning Saturday that the city was concerned that officers couldn’t leave the building to work in the area, and officers coming in for the next day’s shift also couldn’t work, because their “uniforms, weapons and equipment” were barricaded inside the building. The dispersal happened peacefully, according to 9News and the mayor. Protesters stayed until about 5 a.m.