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Police use pepper spray at peaceful violin vigil for Elijah McClain

Elijah McClain, a young musician, was killed by police last year.

Over the weekend, peaceful protesters gathered in Aurora, Colorado to pay their respects and demand justice for Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old who died after being placed in a chokehold by police officers last year.

What We Know:

  • Thousands of people showed up at Aurora’s City Center Park on Saturday to honor McClain, a musician, who studied the violin and was known for playing music to soothe stray cats. Local musicians gathered to play in his memory while protesters stood around or sat on the lawn.
  • By early evening, the police showed up to the peaceful vigil with riot gear and pepper spayed musicians and protesters after warning demonstrators that they had to leave the “illegal gathering” or they would use pepper spray to disperse the crowds, according to the Denver Post.
  • In videos posted to social media, people are seen sitting on the lawn listening to the violinists when the Aurora police march through the crowd. People can be heard screaming as the police order them to disperse.

  • “Pepper spray was used after a small group of people gathered rocks/sticks, knocked over a fence, & ignored orders to move back,” the Aurora police department (APD) said. “Tear gas was not used.”
  • After dispersing, the protesters marched on a major highway, shutting it down. The incident in Aurora is the latest round of protests following the country’s response to the killing of George Floyd and is forcing law enforcement to examine how many black and brown people have died while in police custody.
  • On Aug. 24th, 2019, McClain was walking home from a convenience store when he was approached by the APD. The police claim a 911 caller reported a “suspicious person” in a ski mask and they encountered McClain, who was innocent of any crime and unarmed but fit their description. The officers say he “resisted arrest”.
  • For the next 15 minutes, officers tackled McClain to the ground and put him in a chokehold. First responders arrived and injected the young man with ketamine, an anesthetic. On the way to the hospital, McClain had a heart attack that put him in a coma. He was declared brain dead and died days later.
  • The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing on the basis of “questionable” body-camera footage and an alleged inconclusive autopsy. McClain’s family insists the APD’s excessive force led to his death.
  • Saturday night’s vigil for McClain came after more than 3 million people signed a petition demanding the Aurora mayor, Mike Coffman, the ADP, and county authorities run an “in-depth” investigation into the young man’s death. The petition demanded the officers be fired and charged. 

The state attorney general, Phil Weiser, announced his office will investigate McClain’s death.

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