march

Organizers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation lead a march from the Colorado State Capitol to the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center Saturday afternoon. (Hannah Metzger)

Hundreds of people rallied Saturday afternoon outside the Colorado State Capitol to protest the arrests of five Black Lives Matter activists in Aurora.

The rally organizers, the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), demanded charges be dropped against the five activists who were accused of barricading people inside the Aurora Police Department in July.

“These organizers have committed no crime. It is DPD and APD that are the criminals here,” said PSL organizer Marissa Sanchez. “This attack on the Denver anti-racist movement and PSL is a part of a concerted national assault on the Black Lives Matter movement.”

After an hour of speeches, the protestors marched from the Capitol to the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center on West Colfax Avenue where those arested are being held.

PSL said the activists, Russell Ruch, Lillian House, Joel Northam, Eliza Lucero and Terrance Roberts, were arrested in a “coordinated assault” on Thursday. The five were arrested in parking lots and at their homes within hours of one another.

All of those arrested except for Roberts are members of PSL.

“It’s hard to be out here but it’s even harder to be at home,” said Elisabeth Epps with Colorado Freedom Fund. “Your silence will not protect you.”

Epps said her organization is working to get the arrestees released as soon as possible, adding that they do not intend to take any pleas and will take the cases all the way to trial.

The five activists were arrested in connection with a 600-person protest at the APD District One station on July 3, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s office said protesters barricaded the station’s entrances, preventing 18 officers from leaving for approximately seven hours.

The protesters were demanding that two Aurora police officers be fired and would not allow anyone to leave the station until their needs were met, according to the DA’s office.

The protesters were charged, in part, with inciting a riot, engaging in a riot and obstructing government operations. House and Northam were also charged with attempt to commit first-degree kidnapping, a charge that PSL called “bizarre and ludicrous” in a statement.

Northam’s mother spoke at the rally, calling her son a “political prisoner” and expressing fear for how the police will portray him.

“We know what they’re going to do now. They’re going to try to demonize him,” Glynese Northam said. “My son is one of the greatest people I know … I just want to show and tell you who Joel is.”

Glynese showed the crowd photos of Joel throughout his life, describing him as a cum laude college graduate, a musical prodigy and a child who brought his Bible to school every day.

“They messed with the wrong black momma,” Glynese said. “I will fight for my son with everything I have.”

Other notable attendees at the rally included Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, civil rights attorney Mari Newman and Elijah McClain’s mother, Sheneen, who is taking a vow of silence until her son’s killers are arrested.

Various speakers at the rally claimed that police are targeting protesters to discourage others from participating in the movement, and urged one another to stay brave.

“We know that every social movement in the past has faced such repression,” Sanchez said, “and we will stand up to face it again.”

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