AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – As protests continue to erupt across the nation and locally in the Denver metro area, Black leaders are speaking out. The most recent incident happened in Aurora on Saturday after the Elijah McClain rally that ended with police deploying tear gas on unruly crowds.
“I’m feeling very concerned, very concerned,” said Dr. Eric Nelson, Executive Committee Member of the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference.
He’s also an Aurora native and actively involved community member. But as he told CBS4’s Mekialaya White, this concern is nothing new for him.
“I grew up Black, I’m going to die Black. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, as a Black man we live in a state of fear. Anytime we’re stopped or interact with a person of authority, the cards are not stacked in our favor.”
For Nelson, the Elijah McClain case is especially personal, “My immediate thoughts on Elijah are that this kid should be alive today. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be. It really hurts my heart and it really saddens me because I look at my kids and I think about even myself. When we go out and have police interaction, are we going to be able to make it home?”
“I know it’s not all police,” he explained. “It’s a few bad apples that spoil the entire bunch. I have friends and family who are police, but they’re not the ones out here killing people and brutalizing.”
Nelson says he does see changes being made incrementally.
“Some of the officials here in Aurora are listening, they’re taking a stand. When you look at the police department here in Aurora, our (interim) chief has made steps to address policies, like removing the chokehold.”
However, he says this is just the beginning for us as a society. He’s calling for even more change going forward.
“When you look at systemic racism, how police interact with active racism or people of color differently than how they interact with other races, a lot of that needs to be looked at. When you’re having African Americans dying disproportionately in numbers, how can all lives matter unless Black lives matter?”
NAACP is also taking a stance against racism. The organization has established a contract to help people of color, called “We Are Done Dying.”