In August 2019, Elijah McClain, an unarmed black man who had committed no crime and was merely dancing to music while wearing a ski mask, died after a brutal encounter with Aurora police.
For months afterward, the story failed to gain traction beyond Colorado, in large part because the body cameras of responding officers became "dislodged" during the incident. But now, amid the ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd, the story is being widely disseminated across the country, fueled by coverage by the New York Times, CNN and Good Morning America and an online movement identified by the hashtags #JusticeForElijah and #JusticeForElijahMcClain.
It's a different kind of video than the one that should have been recorded at the scene of McClain's death, but it summarizes what happened in heartbreaking fashion.
Joining in this chorus have been numerous celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Aniston, Kelly Rowland and Golden State Warriors basketball star Klay Thompson, who described McClain on Instagram as "a gentle soul who played violin to lonely kittens in his spare time" but "was murdered by Aurora CO police officers (who still roam free) for looking 'suspicious' on his way home from the convenience store."
Thompson added: "Now remember, this is the same police force that apprehended James Holmes after slaying 12 people and injuring 70 others at an Aurora movie theatre midnight screening. They subdued him without a scratch on his body. There is no debate that men, woman and children of color are 'policed' to a much harsher and catastrophic standard than white America."
Also weighing in was actress Kerry Washington, who tweeted the following list of demands, beginning with encouragement for concerned citizens to call Governor Jared Polis about the McClain tragedy.
After tweeting about the case on June 24, Polis took action June 25, signing an executive order appointing Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to "investigate, and if the facts support prosecution, criminally prosecute any individuals whose actions caused the death of Elijah McClain."
Activism continues on the local level. Scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow, June 27, is the "Justice for Elijah McClain! Rally & March" at the Aurora Police Department headquarters, 15001 East Alameda Parkway. The Party for Socialism and Liberation in Denver, which also sponsored a recent protest over the police-shooting death of William DeBose, lists the following demands:
1. Immediately fire all three APD officers (Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema) and both paramedics who actively participated in Elijah's murder.
2. Reopen the case and file criminal charges against all three APD officers and the two paramedics who actively participated in Elijah's murder.
3. Provide immediate restitution to the McClain family, reflecting the incredible injustice committed against them. Do not drag it out any longer, forcing them to repeatedly defend the injustice of the cold-blooded murder of their child.
Click for more details about the rally.
In the meantime, Sheneen McClain, Elijah's mother, has launched a GoFundMe page introduced with an all-caps statement that begins: "ELIJAH J. MCCLAIN, WE ARE LISTENING AND WE HEAR YOU SON, WE WILL WALK WITH YOU HOME, TO MAKE SURE YOU GET TO YOUR PROPER DESTINATION! WE LOVE YOU SON AND NEED TO GUIDE YOUR SOUL HOME TO A PEACEFUL EXIT FROM THIS WORLD SO YOU WONT SUFFER ANYMORE SON! I CALL IN DIVINE JUSTICE FOR ELIJAH J. MCCLAIN, I CLAIM IT FOR MY SON, A LIGHTWORKER KILLED BY DARKWORKERS, FOR FATHER GOD’S GLORY, IN JESUS’ NAME, AMEN."
At this writing, more than $1.687 million has been pledged on the page — and the number of signatures affixed to the "Justice for Elijah McClain" petition on Change.org has surpassed 3.3 million, including approximately 700,000 added in the past 24 hours.
The cries for justice are finally being heard from coast to coast and beyond.