A peaceful violin vigil for Elijah McClain ended in police using rubber bullets and pepper spray

29 June 2020, 17:43 | Updated: 29 June 2020, 17:55

By Kyle Macdonald

Music is met by riot gear and rubber bullets, in a violent end to a peaceful violin vigil.

On Saturday in Aurora, Colorado, riot police abruptly broke up a peaceful musical protest in memory of Elijah McClain.

Several thousand people had marched and gathered in the centre of the US suburb, to remember the young black man and campaign for justice following his death.

McClain died after being placed in a chokehold and injected with a sedative during an encounter with officers last August. The 23-year-old was a massage therapist and a keen musician who played violin for shelter kittens on his lunch breaks.

On Saturday, string players and singers gathered to remember McClain in music, giving impromptu performances during a day-long vigil.

At 8.30 pm, riot-gear-clad police could be seen approaching the ensemble. In a video shared on Twitter, one peaceful protester can be heard saying “no, no, no”, against the sound of the music.

Read more: Cellist plays heartrending ‘Dido’s Lament’ in memory of George Floyd >

According to the Sentinel Colorado, Aurora police deployed pepper spray and four rounds of rubber bullets against the crowd. Police say protesters were throwing rocks and bottles at officers.

In other videos filmed by those attending the vigil, people can be seen making a ring around the musicians, with their arms raised in a gesture of non-conflict.

Police were then reported to have forced the crowd to leave the park. But, as they moved through a car park, one violinist climbed on top of a car to continue the musical solidarity. A large crowd then gathered in the car park and protesters can be heard playing and singing together into the night.

Violinists from around the country. Of all ages and races tonight. 🖤✊🏽 #ElijahMcclain #Leeenglandjrviolinist #auroracolorado

Posted by Kianna Crowe on Saturday, 27 June 2020

Elijah McClain was a 23-year-old black man from the Denver suburb of Aurora. While walking to a store on 27 August 2019 he was confronted by police officers, who put him in a chokehold and injected him with a sedative.

McClain subsequently suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was taken off life support three days later. Investigations by Aurora police and a district attorney produced no charges for the officers involved.

In the wake of protests after the death of George Floyd, Elijah McClain’s case has been seen as another example of excessive force causing death to a person of colour.