Thousands gather near Denver to demand justice for Elijah McClain

Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside an Aurora, Colorado, municipal building Saturday demanding systemic change and justice in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year after police applied a chokehold.

Saturday’s demonstrations organized by the Denver chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation began with a march and rally followed by a youth-led protest and a violin vigil, the Denver Post reported.

One protester, Franklin Williams, 25, said he attended to show support and to make sure the fervor continues beyond Saturday.

“This shouldn’t be a moment,” Williams said. “This should be a movement.”

Police in riot gear broke up the protests hours after they began.

On Friday, three officers involved in McClain’s death were reassigned to non-enforcement duties for their own safety, authorities said. But people at Saturday’s demonstration said the police department needs to do more.

“They should not have jobs at this particular point,” one woman told Nightly News. “Charges need to be brought up against them because it was murder what was done.”

An internal investigation previously found that the police officers had followed protocol when they stopped McClain on Aug. 24.

Police had been responding to a call of a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms as he walked down a street. They said McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers confronted him and tried to take him into custody. Police used a chokehold to subdue McClain — a tactic recently banned in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

In video obtained by NBC News, McClain could be heard telling police “I can’t breathe correctly.”

He suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital after paramedics administered a sedative to calm him down. He was later declared brain dead and taken off life support less than a week later.

Three officers were placed on leave and later returned to the force after District Attorney Dave Young said there was insufficient evidence to charge them.

On Thursday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered prosecutors to reopen the investigation.

“He deserves justice,” Marna Arnett said. “They murdered my friend and nothing happened. They got to go back to work.”