Hundreds march 5 miles on Colfax to protest Elijah McClain, deaths of Blacks by police

AURORA | Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on East Colfax Avenue in Aurora Sunday afternoon to march about five miles to Denver City Park to protest the death and injury of Blacks at the hands of police across the region.

Colfax was closed in both directions for roughly two hours as marchers bearing signs calling for police reform and chanting slogans that have reverberated throughout the nation in recent months streamed through Aurora and Denver’s central civic artery.

“The police and their racist backers are united in their determination to put down the powerful nationwide movement that is sending shudders through the entire racist system,” the local chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which organized the event, said in a Facebook post. The organization pointed to a June 25 incident where protesters who had swarmed onto interstate 225 in Aurora were endangered when a speeding SUV drove into a crowd. One man fired shots during the melee, injuring fellow protesters.

The event Sunday remained peaceful. No conflicts or arrests were reported as of about 7:30 p.m. The march ended shortly before 6 p.m. beside the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in the southwest corner of Denver’s City Park.

The walk began at the plaza outside of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Aurora. Starting at 2 p.m., speakers called for police reform and identified several Colorado residents who died shortly after interacting with law enforcement, including 23-year-old massage therapist Elijah McClain. About one year ago, the Aurora resident died days after a trio of city police officers placed him in a now-banned control hold and a paramedic injected him with ketamine.

McClain family friend Candice Bailey, who also sits on the city’s nascent police community task force, led the march throughout the hot, windy Sunday afternoon.

“As always, it’s peaceful, and there’s no need to board up windows and doors,” Bailey said shortly after 4:30 p.m. as the group slithered through Denver. There’s been a lot of rhetoric with APD telling people we’re going to tear their s*** up, which isn’t true. We never have, and we never will. I feel like it’s going great, and I feel like the turnout is great.”

Aurora Police Lt. Chris Amsler said a bicycle unit assigned to patrol Colfax contacted some 70 business owners in the area in the days leading up to the event advising them of the planned march. No written communications were handed out, Amsler said.

As a result, several businesses, including the EZ Pawn at Colfax and Dallas Street and La Mexicana ice cream shop across the street, had plywood guarding their facades. Bailey said marchers intended to show their support for Colfax business owners, several of whom raised their fists in support as the caravan rolled past them.

“We always stand in solidarity and peace, and we’re here fighting for the people who have businesses on Colfax,” Bailey said while waving at a pair of restauranteurs observing the march. “We love our community and our neighbors, and we want us all to be prosperous.”

Aurora police handed out more than 100 letters to Colfax businesses between East Dunkirk Street and I-225 on Aug. 13, days before a massive gathering planned to commemorate the anniversary of McClain’s death was scheduled to course through the city. Several thousand people were expected to attend the event, though it was ultimately canceled.

It’s unclear if Denver police also warned Colfax businesses west of Yosemite of Sunday’s march before it began. A request for comment was not immediately returned by the department.

Several Denver police cruisers and motorcycles escorted protesters from roughly Yosemite Street until they turned north onto Steele Street and entered City Park.

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