Police in Colorado used pepper spray and batons to break up a violin-concert vigil for the 23-year-old black man who died during a chokehold arrest by the same force — saying there were “agitators” in the crowd.
Numerous videos show people sitting on grass and listening to around a dozen violinists in an Aurora park Saturday as a line of officers march toward them.
“No no no no!” one woman cried with increasing desperation in one video of Saturday’s confrontation viewed more than 10 million times by Monday.
“Aurora PD breaking up the peaceful violin vigil for the very kid they murdered,” she wrote of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who died during an Aurora police arrest last August.
Aurora police defended its tactics, insisting it gave plenty of warnings that it had become an unlawful assembly because of “agitators” in the crowd.
“Pepper spray was used after a small group of people gathered rocks/sticks, knocked over a fence, & ignored orders to move back. Tear gas was not used,” the force said after a backlash Sunday.
McClain’s death has garnered renewed attention amid a global outcry sparked by George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer last month.
Gov. Jared Polis last week appointed Attorney General Phil Weiser to probe the death and look at possible prosecutions.
The three officers involved have also been put on modified duties.