DENVER (CBS4) – Activists from Louisville, Kentucky demonstrated alongside Coloradans in their fight for justice for Elijah McClain on Saturday. They said they are reciprocating support given to them by Colorado activists in rallies for justice for Breonna Taylor.
The Say Their Names rally happened at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Several dozen people attended, including Elijah McClain’s mother and family members of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her home when police burst in during a no-knock warrant in March.
“There is a majority of American people on any given day from any background who are understanding that we are all tired of police abuse and police brutality,” said Shameka Parrish-Wright with the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “Even while we’re fighting a pandemic, we said we need to be out here because if we’re not, we’re letting people down.”
The rally was held almost a year after Elijah McClain’s death. Speaking on behalf of Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, Candace Bailey said family members are saddened and anxious, but prepared to keep fighting for justice.
“He was a very peaceful and loving young man, and we’re asking for everyone to come in peace, in love, in gratitude,” Bailey said. “That’s what we need right now.”
McClain was arrested by Aurora police on Aug. 24, 2019 after someone reported a suspicious person walking with a mask on. Police questioned McClain, who was walking home from a convenient store and had not committed a crime. A fight broke out when officers tried to restrain McClain.
They placed him in a now-banned carotid control hold (chokehold), and paramedics injected him with 500 mg of ketamine to sedate him. McClain suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance. He was pulled off life support on Aug. 30, 2019.
Protesters have called on Aurora officials to fire the officers who arrested McClain and still remain on the job. There are also calls for accountability regarding Aurora Fire Rescue, whose firefighters administered the ketamine to McClain, and Falck Rocky Mountain ambulance services, which provided the sedative.
On Saturday, several of the twenty activists from Kentucky spoke to the crowd and echoed organizers’ calls to end police brutality and abuses of power. They also demanded change in police culture and training.
“We have a responsibility to make sure there is never another Elijah McClain or Breonna Taylor,” Bailey said.
“The police need to learn how to interact and approach people the right way. They’re afraid of us, so they don’t know how to respond,” stated Tyra Walker, an activist from Kentucky, in a news release.
Earlier in the week, McClain’s mother said an event planned for Sunday, Elijah’s Walk Home, was “turning into a three-ring circus.” The family has since canceled the event.
Instead, the family will gather with community groups and supporters for a remembrance event at 6 p.m. at the Montbello Rec Center. An organizer said there will be no speakers at the event, and attendees are asked to respect the family members as they grieve and heal.
There are at least five ongoing investigations into what lead to McClain’s death and into the Aurora Police Department.
Organizers will also focus on civic education. State and local officials are scheduled to speak to the crowd.
The African American Initiative of Colorado Democrats hosted a voter registration drive at the time of the rally.