The Southern Utah University Students for Socialism club teamed up with the SUU Black Student Union to host a virtual screening of “In Defense of Justice in Denver” Wednesday night over Zoom.
The film highlighted Denver movement leaders that were jailed after protesting in September 2019 over the death of Elijah McClain who was killed by police officers in 2019 in Aurora, Colorado.
The organizers of this screening at SUU held the event to try and “garner local support for the demand to drop these false charges, and condemnation for the dangerous campaign against protest rights and the Black Lives Matter movement” according to the S4S.
A main focus of the documentary was how the peaceful activists were the only ones charged with crimes while the police who killed McClain were not charged. These charges included felony and misdemeanor charges, with some protestors facing up to 48 years, the highest charge in recent times for protesting.
“I hoped that [attendees] learned something,” Dominique Erwin, the BSU president, said after the screening. “This is something that really needs to be discussed. This is something that happens quite often and people aren’t really aware of it.”
Following the screening, students and club members discussed their impressions and personal opinions of the events that took place.
“Even though these issues are all across America, there are certain instances where they truly do hit close to home,” said Jonathan Hatch, a philosophy and biology major at SUU. Attention was drawn to a recent story about a police shooting in Cedar City, Feb. 15, 2021.
One of the protestors highlighted in the film, Lillian House, was expected to attend the screening and participate in a Q&A, but the organizers had a hearing for their charges scheduled over the event so they were unable to attend or make any public statements.
The clubs asked everyone in attendance to try and donate at least $5 to help fund the already long drawn-out court battles to drop the charges against these protestors.
Carl Anderson, a local affiliate for the National Committee for Justice for Denver and senior at SUU, hopes the screening “keeps the ball rolling” in fighting for social justice.
For these protestors, and many activists around the country, the fight for justice for Elijah McClain is ongoing as investigation into McClain’s death is taking place. “On February 22,  an independent investigation into Elijah McClain’s death… came back with its results,” after being commissioned by the city of Aurora according to Anderson. It confirms that “there was absolutely no justification for what happened to Elijah McClain and that in the aftermath, all of the so-called investigations weren’t really investigating, but were orchestrating a carefully crafted coverup.”
This news came right before the House of Representatives voted to approve the George Floyd in Policing Act last week. George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020 and numerous protests followed. One of the officers involved in the killing has had his charges recently heighted to third-degree murder. The Senate is awaited to vote on the act next.
For students that missed the event, the documentary can be viewed on Youtube. Anyone looking to donate can do so on the National Committee for Justice in Denver website, where more information about the committee in general can also be found.
The S4S’ mission “aims to organize and fight for the advancement of workers’ rights and spreading the message of socialism to students at SUU,” according to the club’s website. “We will provide a space to debate and discuss news and politics on the Left. Our goal is to show the students, faculty, and staff at SUU that there is more to politics than the two party dichotomy.”
The BSU’s mission is “to improve student relations, offer community service, and promote awareness and appreciation of culture and diversity,’ according to the club’s website. “BSU is a social support and educational awareness club that is open to everyone who is interested in African-American culture.”
BSU recently held an event to help students become a better Black ally.
Article by: Tanner Hallam
Photo by: National Committee for Justice in Denver