A planned August 23 event to honor the late Elijah McClain has been canceled at the request of his mother, Sheneen McClain. But in the days before the decision was made to call off what had been dubbed "Elijah's Walk Home," the Aurora Police Department circulated a letter to local businesses near the rally site advising them to consider "hiring security guards, removing expensive merchandise, taking cash to the bank, boarding up windows, door grates and installing window bars."
Attorney Mari Newman represents the family in a lawsuit over McClain's August 2019 death after a violent encounter with Aurora cops, and filed a separate complaint related to a violin tribute to the 23-year-old that was broken up by officers using tear gas. The APD letter regarding the rally "strikes me that it's yet another example of the City of Aurora and the Aurora Police Department putting property ahead of lives," she notes.
Granted, the letter does refer to potential injuries should individuals with nefarious intentions use the peaceful get-together as "cover" for "unruly behavior," and tells business owners that "keeping you and your employees safe is of the utmost importance and should be your highest priority." But the vast majority of the communiqué concerns the physical damage that could come from vandalism and looting.
Aurora has plenty of other challenges on its plate right now. By our calculations, its homicide rate is currently higher than Denver's. Moreover, the city continues to receive terrible publicity nationwide over McClain's death, as epitomized by the August 17 screening in downtown Denver of a video in which celebrities such as Janelle Monáe read McClain's heartrending final words.
There certainly would have been national attention for "Elijah's Walk Home," since the change.org petition demanding "Justice for Elijah McClain" has already collected over 5 million signatures. But the family worried that the remembrance of the peace-loving victim might become lost in a protest with the potential to turn violent, as the July demonstration did.
"It started as the family's desire to walk together along the path Elijah would have taken home from the convenience store to where he was staying at the time," explains Newman. He never made it home on August 24, 2019; in response to a 911 call about a suspicious person, the police stopped McClain, despite him having committed no crime. "The family's initial intention was to have an intimate moment of healing," Newman continues but "the event took on a life of its own," with the Aurora Police Department estimating potential attendance at 2,500.
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"Once it became something of a three-ring circus, Elijah's mother realized the last thing she wanted in the world was to be the main attraction, when she's simply a grieving mom who wants to be with her family," Newman says.
Although "Elijah's Walk Home" has been called off, Newman is concerned that the APD's misplaced priorities remain. "Aurora still has not done anything to discipline Elijah's killers," she says, "but the police department is awfully concerned to make sure everybody's property is protected."
Here's the text of the APD's letter:
6 Abilene Street
Aurora, Colorado 80012
Dear Business Owner:
The Aurora Police Department woiiuld like to make you aware of an organized peaceful event and march scheduled on Sunday, August 23, 2020. The event is named the Elijah's Walk Home. The location of the event will be at the Aurora Sports Park at Dunkirk and East Colfax Avenue. A "Car March" is scheduled to take place along Colfax Avenue starting at the Sports Park and ending in the area of East Colfax Avenue and Billings Street. There is an estimated 2,500 plus participants that plan to attend. The car march is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. and go to 12:00 a.m. The roadways around that area could possibly be shut down prior to or after the event and car march.
APD supports a peaceful march. The APD is also concerned that activities of the day can turn violent, disruptive and possibly dangerous if even a small group of people within the protest decide to break the law. In some cases, a group of people determined to cause trouble can use the peaceful march as a "cover" to cause unruly behavior, damage property, and even injure individuals. An unlawful and violent disturbance can quickly overwhelm police resources and make it difficult to respond to calls for service.
With the large amount of people and the possibility of unrest, the Aurora Police Department wanted you to be informed so that you could take any lawful precautions you feel are needed for you, your employees and your business.
APD suggests that you take the time to discuss a plan with employees on what you would like them to do with these possible scenarios...from a disorderly crowd that attempts to enter your store, looting, exterior and interior damages, securing the store for the night or if employees must evacuate on short notice. Keeping you and your employees safe is of the utmost importance and should be your highest priority.
We also suggest that businesses revisit their security protocols. Some things to consider are security cameras, video footage storage to a cloud, research your insurance coverage, security alarms, hiring security guards, removing expensive merchandise, taking cash to the bank, boarding up windows, door grates and installing window bars.
You can follow updates from the Police Department on the day of the event on Twitter.
We thank you for your support, as well as your partnership in assuring that we continue to maintain a safe community within which we can all live, work and thrive!