Lakewood protesters rally for Elijah McClain

Belmar area is site of peaceful demonstration

Joseph Rios
jrios@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/2/20

For the seventh time since May, there was a protest in Lakewood against systemic racism and police brutality. But instead of George Floyd being the name in use at a June 30 protest, a different name …

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Lakewood protesters rally for Elijah McClain

Belmar area is site of peaceful demonstration

Posted

For the seventh time since May, there was a protest in Lakewood against systemic racism and police brutality. But instead of George Floyd being the name in use at a June 30 protest, a different name was the subject of discussion — Elijah McClain.

At least 25 residents gathered on June 30 near Wadsworth Boulevard and Alameda Avenue to peacefully rally in honor of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after an encounter with Aurora Police last August. Residents held signs that had McClain's name on them and messages in support of Black residents.

McClain died last August when Aurora Police were called to the area of Billings Street and Colfax Avenue on a report of a suspicious person. He was wearing a mask, and his family said he did so often because he felt cold due to his anemia, 9News reported.

McClain was in the area visiting a convenience store and did not commit a crime. The resident who called 911 told police he didn't believe McClain was dangerous, according to 9News.

McClain was thrown on the ground by officers, and an officer was heard shouting that McClain was reaching for the officer's gun in body camera footage, 9News reported. The footage doesn't clearly show McClain reaching for a gun, according to 9News.

The officers used a now banned carotid hold to keep McClain restrained, causing him to lose consciousness, and a first responder injected him with the tranquilizing drug ketamine. McClain died three days later in a hospital.

The officers involved in his death faced no charges of wrongoing after an investigation by the Adams County district attorney's office, 9News said. But Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser was recently appointed as special prosecutor to review McClain's death.

Zenat Shariff Belken, who has organized Black Lives Matter rallies in Lakewood, said she wanted Lakewood to stand against racism. She was inspired to organize rallies after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in May. Floyd died after Chauvin knelt on his neck, and Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder.

Shariff Belken called McClain's death tragic and said activists can't let up in efforts calling for the end of systemic racism and police brutality.

“(Billings Street and Colfax Avenue) is 30 miles from here,” said Shariff Belken, as she held a Black Lives Matter sign at the June 30 rally. “(McClain's death) brings tears to my eyes. It's easy to think things like this just happen in Minneapolis — but it does happen here.”

Lakewood resident Joan Jacobson attended the June 30 rally and said it isn't right that McClain died rather than being detained.

“(McClain's case) is the worst one. Not only was he killed without a trial — he was killed without committing a crime,” said Jacobson. “No crime, no accusation, and gosh, we all act weird.”

On June 27, demonstrations in Aurora in honor of McClain turned violent when Aurora Police launched smoke canisters and pepper spray at demonstrators. The online news site Denverite reported that Vanessa Wilson, interim chief of Aurora Police, said “agitators” at the demonstration threw rocks and bottles at police — prompting officers to respond.

“We still don't have justice for (McClain), and there never will be because he is gone. But we need to hold the officers who murdered him accountable,” said Sarah Nelson, a Lakewood resident who attended the June 30 rally.

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