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Justice for Elijah McClain and All the Victims of State Terror

A second officer responsible for Elijah McClain’s murder has been acquitted. Let the fight for justice for McClain be something else that carries us into the streets.

Carmin Maffea

November 15, 2023
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Elijah McClain, a young Black man, playing the violin. He was murdered in the fall of 2019 by Aurora, CO police.

Nathan Woodyard, one of the three officers responsible for the murder of Elijah McClain, a Black 23-year old of Aurora, Colorado, has been found not guilty. Woodward is the second officer to be acquitted in this case of police brutality. This painfully showcases, once again, the police’s free reign to terrorize and kill Black people, and cops’ role as guard dogs of capitalism and white supremacy.

Elijah McClain was a talented violinist, a massage therapist, an animal lover, and a person who aspired to heal people. Healing is something he excelled at, not only as a massage therapist but as a Black man. He is described by those who knew him to have been cheerful, charming, and a spreader of positivity by being the type of person to play his violin for cats awaiting adoption so they wouldn’t feel lonely. His impact on the people around him can be seen in videos of his coworkers throwing him a luau-themed belated birthday party. 

On August 24, 2019 a call was made to the Aurora Police department describing Elijah Mcclain looking “sketchy” as he was walking home from the convenience store. Woodyard was the first of three cops and two paramedics to attack and ultimately kill McClain, just for being a Black man walking down the street. 

It was a modern-day, state-sanctioned lynching.

Nathan Woodyard stopped Elijah McClain and began assaulting him within eight seconds. The officer placed McClain in a chokehold with the assistance of two other officers as McClain begged for his life and for the soulless agents of capital to recognize his humanity and right to live. His pleas fell on the unconcerned ears of these tools of white supremacy that never recognized his humanity to begin with. As McClain was rendered unconscious, he was injected with a lethal dose of Ketamine by paramedics and pronounced dead five days later. 

As is the case of many people of color who are the victims of police terror, charges weren’t immediately brought on the aggressors. McClain’s murder would have been swept under the rug if it weren’t for the ferocity of the 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd. A Black vanguard and a multi-racial movement saw just how even the most basic democratic rights were not granted to Black people, especially in regards to police violence, and rose up against the State forces that perpetuate that. The force of this movement that was burning down police stations and had sectors demanding the abolition of police forced the concession to charge the officers and paramedics responsible for McClain’s murder. 

However, with the movement coopted by the bourgeois Democratic Party, the state is in a more comfortable position to protect its forces, allowing two of the three officers to be acquitted, and the last likely to not face jail time even though convicted, depending on the outcome of his sentencing on January 5.

Although the BLM movement in the street has subsided, its influence, which tied the struggle against oppression with the struggle against exploitation, is ever present. BLM was set off by the murder of George Floyd, but people’s anger festered due to the state’s weak response to the Covid pandemic that forced “essential” workers, many of whom were Black and highly precarious, to work under unsafe conditions. Furthermore, Black people were one of the sectors dying the most by Covid. After the movement in the streets, workers made connections to the oppression they faced as Black people by the police to the exploitation they faced as Black workers by their bosses.

This sensibility, which connects the fight against oppression to the fight against exploitation, can be seen in the unionizing Starbucks workers, who were radicalized during BLM, taking a stand against the Zionist occupation of Palestine and the ongoing genocide in Gaza. This movement is inciting mobilizations by the thousands — and in some cases millions — of people all over the world. And the sentiment of that movement is as relevant within these protests as they were in 2020. 

The police forces that kill our Black siblings like Elijah McClain and beat our comrades in the street when we protest are trained by the IDF which drops bombs and white phosphorus on Palestinian homes and hospitals, and has been terrorizing Palestinians for 75 years to maintain the occupation of Palestine by Israel. The purpose of both the IDF and police is to maintain capitalist control by suppressing the working class and racial/ethnic minorities. Therefore, we must abolish both forces as we fight to defeat imperialist occupations around the world. But they cannot be abolished until we first win, through international working-class solidarity, the abolition of the system of despair they serve. 

In the fight against oppression, our power lies where we have the most impact and strategic weight: our workplaces and unions. We see that with Barcelona dock workers who refuse to load weapons shipment to Israel in solidarity with Gaza, and healthcare workers in New York City who held a rally and vigil for the people of Palestine and in solidarity with Gazan healthcare workers.  

Workers have been making their experiences with the State and the exploitative and oppressive nature of capitalism and have been fighting more and more with those lessons in tow. As we fight in the streets and organize in our workplaces for the justice of the martyrs of capitalism and imperialism, let us chant the name of Elijah McClain with the names of the 11,000+ infants, youth, adults, and elderly killed by the brutal forces of Israel. Let us honor all victims of this wretched system with our pursuit of liberation of the oppressed around the world. 

Justice for Elijah McClain and Free Palestine.

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Carmin Maffea

Carmin is a revolutionary socialist from New York.

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