How You Can Demand Justice for Elijah McClain on the One-Year Anniversary of His Death

·8 min read

From Cosmopolitan

When you’re Black in America, anything can be a death sentence—especially when the police are involved. Sleeping, jogging, playing in the park, and countless other completely harmless activities have all led to fatal consequences for Black people. Sadly, now we can add “being cold” to that list.

One year ago, on August 24, 2019, 23-year-old Aurora, Colorado, resident Elijah McClain wore a face mask to keep warm (his family said he had anemia and would often wear an open-face ski mask) while walking home from the convenience store. Despite admitting that they didn’t think McClain posed any threat, someone called the police on him because they thought he looked “suspicious.”

Three white Aurora Police Department officers soon approached McClain and violently arrested him. According to the district attorney, McClain begged the officers, “Let me go, no, let me go, I am an introvert, please respect my boundaries that I am speaking,” as they arrested him and put him in a chokehold. When McClain passed out, the police called an ambulance, and a medic injected McClain with enough ketamine to sedate someone at least twice his weight. McClain was then “placed into soft restraints” and the medic noticed his “chest was not rising on his own and he did not have a pulse.” Tragically, McClain was declared brain-dead three days later. Criminal charges were never filed against the arresting officers nor were they fired.

His family has since filed a lawsuit against the city of Aurora, the officers who stopped him (Nathan Woodyard, Randy Roedema, and Jason Rosenblatt), 10 other officers who were at the scene, a paramedic, and the doctor who is in charge of the Aurora Fire Rescue’s ketamine program. Hours after the lawsuit was filed in August 2020, the Colorado attorney general launched an investigation into the Aurora Police Department’s “patterns and practices.”

Amid recent calls for the officers to be charged, the McClain family attorney, Mari Newman, said:

“He [McClain] was an angel among humans. He would go to play his violin on his lunch hour to animals who were waiting to be adopted so they wouldn’t be lonely. This is not a person who should ever have been contacted by law enforcement, much less murdered in cold blood as he was. The public sees through that dishonesty, sees through that effort to avoid accountability, and is now standing up to say Aurora needs to stand up and do what is right.”

Here’s how you can stand in support of McClain’s family and against police brutality:

Make Calls for Elijah

It has been a full year since McClain’s death, and nobody has been arrested. To push for justice for McClain, organizers are spearheading an effort to mass-call Colorado officials who can do something about his case. Click here to get involved.

Don’t know what to say on the phone? Don’t sweat it—there are recommended talking points right here to help you along the way.


McClain’s mother set up a GoFundMe to raise money for legal fees and to set up a foundation that will be used to help the Black community and victims of police brutality.

Sign Petitions

On June 8, District Attorney Dave Young (an elected official) said, “I don’t open up investigations based on petitions. Obviously, if there is new evidence to look at, I will look at the evidence in any case. But no. I’m not going to open up an investigation because people are signing a petition.”

That said, petitions can still put pressure on other (more open-minded) officials, and signing this one for McClain is so easy, it won’t take more than 30 seconds. Already, the public outcry prompted Governor Jared Polis to appoint lawyers to reexamine McClain’s case to identify “what the state can do,” and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said his office will investigate McClain’s killing. Weiser added, “His life mattered and his death was tragic. The pain, frustration, and anger that his family and many Coloradans are feeling from his death is understandable and justified.”

Contact Representatives

Follow @JusticeForElijahMcClain’s link, which generates an email template and automatically adds in the email address of every Aurora official that you need to reach. Simply fill in the blanks to personalize your message and hit send.

Writer and activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham shared an example of what she wrote in her email to help anyone who might be stumbling as they type. She also advised her followers to send an email even if they’re not a U.S. resident to let officials know the whole world is paying attention.

If you want to cover all your bases and call Aurora officials too, @JusticeForElijah has collected all their phone numbers. All you have to do is dial and say something similar to the email template.

Also, the Justice For Elijah McClain grassroots campaign just launched the #LettersForElijah card drive to make it even easier to contact Colorado officials. In partnership with Culture Greetings, a Black-owned greeting card platform, for the first 23 days of August, supporters can send a card designed specifically for McClain for $3. The card company and campaign made it so easy to participate—you don’t even have to go find stamps or drop the card off at the post office. They do all of that for you! If you have $3 to spare, help these groups reach their goal of 10,000 letters.

Keep Protesting

The protests aren’t over. Just because they’re not being covered as intensively as they were a few weeks ago doesn’t mean they’re not happening or that support for the Black Lives Matter movement has waned. If you’re able to, get out and protest in your community, because it’s working.

Photo credit: Michael Ciaglo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Ciaglo - Getty Images


Reminder: This is an election year. If you, your family, or your friends can vote in the state, make sure you all are casting ballots for local elections. As evidenced by McClain’s case, local elected officials, like Governor Jared Polis, have the power to open investigations into fatal cases of police brutality.

Because of determined people like you, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment launched an investigation into the use of ketamine following “numerous” complaints relating to “a ketamine administration in August 2019,” the month McClain was killed.

Here are more guides for how to demand justice right now, how to support Black trans lives, how to find mental health resources if you’re a Black woman, how to talk to your relatives about Black Lives Matter, how to donate wisely, how to spot a fake protest story, and how to protest safely.

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