Summer of racial reckoning: Hundreds march to condemn police violence and racism

Protesters gathered in Aurora on Sunday to hear speeches from organizers and families that have lost loved ones

By: - August 31, 2020 11:22 am

Protestors participate in the March Against Racism & Police Violence from Aurora to Denver on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. Several hundred protesters marched 5 miles from Aurora to Denver on East Colfax Avenue on Sunday in a demonstration against police brutality and in support of Black lives. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Several hundred protesters took to the streets on Sunday to participate in a march from Aurora to Denver to denounce police brutality and systemic racism, and to stand in solidarity with Black lives.

Community members gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Aurora around 2 p.m. to hear speeches from organizers and families that have lost loved ones due to police violence. Participants marched nearly 5 miles down East Colfax Avenue to Denver’s City Park, where the event concluded with more speeches in front of the park’s Martin Luther King Jr. statue.

Mari Newman, an attorney representing the family of Elijah McClain, speaks to a crowd outside of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Aurora on Aug. 30, 2020. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

“As I think of the number of family members and those among us that have not gotten justice, it is so many names and something must change now,” Mari Newman said to the crowd on Sunday. Newman is the attorney for the family of Elijah McClain, who died over a year ago after a violent encounter with Aurora police.

“I spent the weekend at an event honoring Emmett Till, who was killed just 65 years ago today. And so little has changed since then,” said Newman, referring to the 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of flirting with a white woman.

Sunday’s protest came one week after Kenosha police in Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back while he attempted to enter his car. He is now paralyzed from the waist down. On Friday, hundreds of people gathered throughout the day at the Greek Theater at Civic Center Park in Denver to honor the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The weekend events in Denver and Aurora come after months of protests and demonstrations against police brutality and racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd in May.

“We’ve seen unrest across the country, and I think something that’s important to remember here in Colorado is that this is happening in our community,” said Jordan Cain, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “This is still our fight. It’s not just in Minneapolis.”

Protestors participate in the March Against Racism & Police Violence from Aurora to Denver on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. Several hundred protesters marched 5 miles from Aurora to Denver on East Colfax Avenue on Sunday in a demonstration against police brutality and in support of Black lives. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Though the focus of Sunday’s event was centered around police violence, Newman stressed that it’s bigger than that.

“It’s not just the police, it’s white vigilantes and we see it here in Colorado,” Newman said. “We see it in Kenosha, we see it across the country and it puts us all in danger. And those of us who look like me, it’s incumbent upon us that we stand up.”

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Cain, who helped organize Sunday’s peaceful event, said that there is a misconception that people protesting with the Black Lives Matter movement want “total destruction of everything.”

“Of course, we value human life over property. And that’s always going to be the case, always,” she said. “And we’ll never condemn people for breaking things. But we are here for a greater purpose. We’re here for a sustained fight, we are here for the long run. We’re here for the liberation of Black people and oppressed people, and that doesn’t just end with these very newsworthy segments.”

Law enforcement officers on Sunday blocked off streets for the event and led the front of the march at times. 

As protesters marched down East Colfax on Sunday, Keiosha Starr stood with her family outside their barbershop with a big smile on her face. The barbershop is typically closed on Sundays, but the family came out to support their community.

Candace Bailey, a community activist, speaks to a crowd in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Aurora on Aug. 30, 2020. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

“It’s good to see the diversity in people that is here right now,” said Starr, who is Black. “Honestly, it’s less Black people. And I like that. That makes me so happy. I feel welcomed and at home just seeing that we’re all sticking together and that people are showing up.”

Mansur Zahir traveled from San Francisco to join Sunday’s peaceful demonstration in Denver and Aurora. 

He said that when his future kids ask him what he was doing during this time of racial injustice and inequality, he wants to be able to tell them that he was out fighting for Black lives.

“I came from San Francisco to demand justice for Elijah McClain and to demand that the police are held accountable,” said Zahir, who is Pakistani. “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”

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Moe Clark
Moe Clark

Moe Clark is a former Colorado Newsline reporter that covered criminal justice, housing and homelessness, and other social issues.

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