//Denzil Franklyn places flowers at the memorial for Elijah McClain on July 11. Photo by James Bofenkamp | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mourners gathered to celebrate the life and memory of Elijah McClain on the evening of July 11.
On a hill in Utah Park in Aurora, Colorado was Elijah, spelled out with white flowers, candles and trinkets. In stark contrast to some recent protests calling for justice for McClain, this event was designed to be a memorial and a community gathering. As the evening went on, music played and mourners sat in the grass, chatting with friends and strangers. Despite the relaxed atmosphere of the evening, there was simmering anger.
“We have gotten more justice for those stupid ass pictures they took mocking him than we’ve got for the actual homicide and torture of Elijah McClain,” said Terrance Roberts of the Front Line Party for Revolutionary Action.
Giving the event the atmosphere of a block party was a booth with large speakers playing music for those gathered in the park, food trucks parked nearby and participants sitting on blankets in the park or filtering up to the memorial to drop off a sign or candle for McClain.
The relaxed atmosphere contrasted starkly with the more aggressive actions taken the week before, during the so-called APD Occupation of July 3. That protest was advertised to participants as well as the Aurora Police Department as a march to call for justice for McClain. Instead, the march was diverted by the organizers, and the participants encircled the APD District 1 station.
The marchers blockaded each doorway of the building, and the organizers demanded the termination of the officers and paramedics responsible for McClain’s death. Their goal was to keep anyone from entering or leaving the facility until those responsible were fired. Interim Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said that those terminations were out of her hands, and not something she could give the protesters.
Many of the participants claimed they would stick out the occupation for at least the night.
“I’m down to stay. Bring my laptop, work from here, this week,” said a protester who wanted to remain anonymous.
Despite this, the siege was lifted before dawn after the number of protesters dwindled. However, the organizers still claimed victory, despite their demands not being met. They drew attention to the fact that considering the lack of forewarning given to the protesters, many were prepared to stay and assist in the occupation.
At the July 11 vigil, violinist Lindsay Genadek played for those gathered as mourners, organizers and participants lit the candles scattered throughout the white flower memorial. Once the candles were lit, and the violin fell silent, the assembled crowd dispersed, drawing the memorial to a close.
Leaders made it clear that this was not the end of seeking justice for McClain. While the gathering was peaceful and far more relaxed than others in recent months, it was an opportunity to keep attention focused on the goals of the protesters.
“We’re going to keep showing up, and we’re going to keep agitating,” Roberts said.