Prosecutors filed felony charges Sept. 17 against six individuals who have been involved in organizing protests in Aurora, Colorado, against the cops’ killing of Elijah McClain over a year ago. Four are members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and one is a member of a group called Frontline Party for Revolutionary Action.
Charges range from attempt to commit first-degree kidnapping, to conspiracy to commit theft, and inciting to riot. The six protesters face a total of 33 felony counts and 34 misdemeanor charges. If convicted, each faces years in prison.
Threat to political rights
While focused on some provocative actions taken by leaders of these groups, these frame-up charges by county prosecutors pose a threat to the working class and to political rights. Conspiracy charges in particular have been a favorite tool for the cops and prosecutors to frame people up.
The Militant joins in calling for all the charges to be dropped.
Elijah McClain was walking home from a convenience store in Aurora last August, when three cops stopped him after they said they received a complaint about a young Black man who was acting “suspicious.”
The cops put him in a chokehold, ignoring his plea that “I just can’t breathe.” Even though he was restrained, they had him injected with ketamine, a powerful sedative, at a dose high enough to put down a 220-pound person. McClain weighed 140 pounds. He suffered cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital.
The killing was promptly swept under the rug, with District Attorney Dave Young announcing that no criminal charges would be filed. But in the wake of the explosion of protests across the country after cops killed George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25, demonstrations calling for prosecuting the cops who killed McClain began in Aurora, Denver and around the country.
A June 27 protest involved thousands, including violinists who came from other states to play to honor McClain, who used to play his violin to soothe the animals at local shelters. The police used pepper spray and batons to break up the gathering.
Young is one of the prosecutors bringing the charges against the six protesters. In the indictment, two of the Party for Socialism and Liberation leaders at this action are accused of ripping a sign away from a counterprotester in the area and then shoving the person backward.
Blockade ‘kidnapped’ cops
Charges of kidnapping and inciting a riot were also filed in relation to a protest organized July 3. It was publicized as a march that would go from the area where McClain was detained to the Aurora Municipal Center several miles away. But Party for Socialism and Liberation organizers had something else in mind. They led hundreds of protesters in an unannounced march to the Aurora Police Department’s District One precinct station, which was then surrounded and blockaded for a number of hours while 19 officers were inside.
The prosecutors claim the blockade “kidnapped” the cops by saying they couldn’t leave.
Those accused have used ultra-left language, calling the cops “lying pigs” and saying they wouldn’t allow the “pigs that are inside the building” to leave. They admit there was destruction at some of the actions they called, but say they weren’t responsible because they had left before it happened.
But none of this can justify the draconian prosecution — and threatened years in jail — being pursued by the authorities. They are attacking the right to protest and seeking to turn attention away from their efforts to cover up the police killing of Elijah McClain.
More than 1,000 people gathered at the Capitol in Denver Sept. 19 to oppose the charges against the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Frontline Party for Revolutionary Action leaders. The demonstrators made a stop in front of the Denver Detention Facility where three of those arrested are detained.