The cops and the district attorneys want people to see what we are going through — the conditions of our arrests, our experiences in jail, and our legal battle — and to think that this is what you risk when you stand up against them. – Lillian House, Aurora Activist and Defendant
by Alan Macleod
Elijah McClain would have turned 25 last week. However, in 2019, the introverted Black massage therapist was killed on the street by police in his native Aurora (a part of the Denver metropolitan area). None of the officers involved have faced charges for the incident. Yet the leaders of mass protests against the killing are now facing up to 48 years in prison on a host of charges they see as retaliation for standing up to police power.
Three activists — Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero face a preliminary hearing on March 9. A fourth, Terrence Roberts, is also facing similar, though more minor charges.
The most serious of the charges against them is that of kidnapping, an indictment that stems from a protest they led in July. A ring of demonstrators surrounded a police station in Aurora, which meant that officers inside would have to walk through (peaceful) protestor lines to get out the building. For this action, prosecutors argue that they effectively kidnapped 18 police officers, and are hoping they will face many decades in prison.
Constitutional and civil rights attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard was alarmed at the precedent any conviction could set, explaining:
If you think about the labor movement and all the struggles that have been engaged in over the last century and are commonly engaged in when people want to send a message. Think about a picket line; a picket line is always outside of a building. People are marching back and forth. Sometimes they are chanting. That is a classic labor protest, and crucial to labor struggles in the United States. That same type of protest could be charged the same way this was, with decades in prison.
Verheyden-Hilliard is one of a number of high-profile figures to sign a letter demanding all charges be dropped.
After the protest ended, police reacted, forcefully arresting its leaders, even bringing a tank-like armored fighting vehicle to apprehend Northam, the only Black male member of the trio. The three were held in jail for eight days before being brought before a judge.
MintPress spoke to Lillian House earlier this week. House is a soft-spoken Millennial who makes a living buying cute vintage clothing from thrift stores and selling it online — likely not the image many conservatives have in mind when they picture an “Antifa thug.” She is facing the most charges of the group: 12 felonies and 13 misdemeanors. She rejects them outright, saying:
There is absolutely no legitimacy to the charges. We did nothing wrong, and nothing illegal. The reason that the police targeted us — the reason they arrested us in such terrifying and invasive ways, including surrounding me with numerous cop cars and sending a SWAT team to Joel’s apartment and dragging him out in front of his neighbors; the reason that they held us under horrible conditions in jail for eight days; the reason that they stacked this case of ridiculous and extreme charges on us; and the reason that they are forcing us to go through this grueling legal battle — is that we led an extremely successful and popular campaign to hold them accountable.
MintPress also reached out to the Aurora Police Department and City Hall but both declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal case as a reason.