Thousands of protesters gathered in front of a Denver suburban police building on Saturday to demand justice for the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who was drowned by police last year.
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DENVER – Thousands of protesters gathered in front of a Denver suburban police building Saturday to demand justice for the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who was strangled by police last year.
McClain’s death last August has sparked a handful of small protests in the past 10 months, but his case has drawn renewed attention amid a worldwide protest sparked when George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on 25 of May.
Saturday’s protests in Aurora were organized by the Denver chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Denver Post reported. They started with a march and rally, which was expected to be followed by a youth-led protest and a violin vigil.
A protester, Franklin Williams, 25, came to show his support and make sure the fervor continues.
“This shouldn’t be a moment,” said Williams. “This should be a movement.”
Social media posts from the protests early Saturday afternoon showed a crowd of people protesting peacefully as police forces remained clothed in tactical gear.
Some in the crowd chanted, “Why are you on the riot gear? We don’t see riots here.
Protesters walked behind a banner that read: “Justice for Elijah McClain, killed by Aurora police.”
Aurora police responded to a call from a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms while walking down a street on August 24. They say McClain refused to stop walking and defended himself when officers confronted him and tried to take him into custody.
“I have the right to detain you because you are suspicious,” an officer is heard recording on a body camera telling McClain. The encounter occurred when McClain, a certified massage therapist and self-taught violinist, was running an errand.
To subdue McClain, officers used a choke that cuts blood to the brain, a tactic recently banned in several places following Floyd’s death. Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and administered a sedative to calm McClain. McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was later declared brain dead. He was removed from life support less than a week later.
Three officers were placed on leave but returned by force after District Attorney Dave Young said there was insufficient evidence to support them.
Governor Jared Polis ordered Thursday that prosecutors reopen the investigation.
Aurora police released a statement Saturday before the event began saying it supported a peaceful protest and warned “strangers” with destructive goals. Organizers of the protest said the police response was troubling.
“The Aurora Police Department has responded by circulating rumors of a ‘violent threat’ to intimidate organizers and assistants and justify mobilizing a militarized police response to crack down on protesters,” said the Party for Socialism and the Release in a statement posted on Facebook.