Demonstrators confront Aurora lawmaker at her home Sunday, protesting death of Elijah McClain

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AURORA | In the first instance of home protests recently announced by an activist group, about two dozen demonstrators confronted Aurora Councilmember Francoise Bergan at her southeast Aurora home Sunday night to demand support for police and immigration detention reforms and justice for Elijah McClain. 

During the demonstration, which was live-streamed by the group Community E, Bergan met the activists for a dialogue on her driveway. Near 7 p.m., she stood in front of her home and attempted to answer questions hurled at her, mostly about Aurora Police Department scandals, including the death of Elijah McClain after an encounter with officers and first responders last year. 

Bergan eventually went inside her home after refusing to condemn Nathan Woodyard, Randy Roedema, and Jason Rosenblatt, the three APD officers who stopped and subdued McClain last year with a now-banned carotid hold. 

Bergan told demonstrators that she wanted to withhold judgment until a bevy of new investigations and reviews have been completed and she’s privy to “both sides of the story.”

She would commit only to saying that she did not at this point believe the implicated officers were intent on injuring McClain, regardless of the potential investigation outcomes.

“I want to get the facts. I don’t want to put myself into a liable situation,” she said, adding, “I condemn the actions that lead to (McClain’s) death. I don’t think they wanted to kill him.”

Aurora police and Adams County officials last year cleared the three officers of wrongdoing and criminal action in the case. But over the past few months, numerous new investigations  and review in the McClain death have begun.

The demonstrators engaged Bergan for about 30 minutes, and then took to walking through the Tallyn’s Reach neighborhood chanting, “Cops and the Klan go hand in hand, “F*** Bergan” and “Vote her out.” 

Matt Longshore, a spokesperson for Aurora police, said near 7:30 p.m. officers were “monitoring the situation” and had spoken with the protesters. He said there was no indication the gathering was illegal. 

“They understand that they’ve got to go at least three houses down in either direction, and they can’t just stay stopped in front of Councilmember Bergan’s home,” Longshore said.  

During the stream, activists did not identify themselves and many wore masks per COVID-19 recommendations. Community E organizers and members are also not identified on its Facebook page, which has about 350 followers and likes.  

During the protest in front of Bergan’s home, activists demanded murder charges against the three APD officers responsible for stopping McClain. They also called for Bergan to support banning APD use of “tear gas” and pepper spray. Last week, a city council committee axed a recent proposal submitted by Councilmember Juan Marcano to disallow APD use of chemical agents on residents, including at protests. 

The activists also demanded the closure of the GEO Group-run Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center for undocumented immigrants.  

Community E has named Warden Johnny Choate as a future target in the home protests. Last year, a raucous demonstration organized by leftist groups snaked through the otherwise placid Tollgate neighborhood where Choate lived.

During the Facebook live stream, demonstrators vowed the protest was the first in a new spate of seemingly impromptu gatherings at the homes of Aurora city council members and officials. The stream ended at about 7:40 p.m. 

Earlier this month, Community E told its members on Facebook the date or time of home protests wouldn’t be revealed publicly. 

Facebook posts by the group also emphasized that any protests would be “PEACEFUL.” 

“We want to emphasize that this protest is not about f***ing s*** up. It’s about making some mother f***ing noise to the people who think that they can sit in their racist glass castles all day while our communities suffer,” reads one Facebook post. “We have no intention of harm or destroying property. We only intend to send the loudest political message we can: we see you; we know you, and you shall not enjoy peace until there is justice.”