Police, dressed in riot gear, used pepper spray to disperse a peaceful gathering of thousands of protesters in Aurora, Colorado, who had gathered over the weekend to demand justice for Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old man in a coma. and died. after being placed in a choke by officers last year
Saturday’s events began at City Center Park when local musicians played violins at a vigil that had been planned to pay their respects to McClain, who studied the instrument for much of his life and played to calm stray cats.
However, in the late afternoon, police began warning protesters that they had to leave the “illegal gathering” or that they would use pepper spray to disperse the crowds, according to the Denver Post.
As the police advanced, the protesters closed their arms to form a human chain around the violinists, protecting them from the officers. In videos captured by passers-by and posted on social media, the sound of the threads is heard before protesters yell and police demands that protesters disperse.
Protesters chanted phrases like: “Why are you on the riot squad? I don’t see riots here!
“The pepper spray was used after a small group of people picked up rocks [and] sticks, tore down a fence and ignored orders to return, “the Aurora police department said in a statement, adding that” no tear gas was used. “
Authorities confirmed that “three people were arrested for violating legal orders after receiving warnings.”
The protesters then closed a main road as they marched toward McClain. Riots have continued across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, and calls to reexamine all deaths of unarmed black people in police custody are growing across the country.
The McClain vigil came after more than 3 million people signed an online petition demanding that Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman; the city police department; and Adams County “bring justice for Elijah” through “deeper” investigation.
The petition requires that the two officers involved be fired and processed. So far, they remain in the force after county district attorney Dave Young concluded that “there was no reasonable chance of success proving any state crime beyond a reasonable doubt at trial” last November.
However, the state’s attorney general, Phil Weiser, has announced that his office will investigate McClain’s death, stating that “every time someone dies after an encounter with the police, the community deserves a thorough investigation.”
“Elijah McClain should be alive today,” he said in a statement released Thursday. “His life mattered and his death was tragic. The pain, frustration, and anger his family and many Coloradons feel about his death is understandable and justified. “
Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed Weiser as special prosecutor to investigate McClain’s death.