String players who traveled from all over the U.S. to Aurora, Colo. for a violin vigil and peaceful protest over the death of Elijah McClain were met with police in riot gear, attacking people with tear gas and pepper spray Saturday.
Saturday's gathering at a park in Aurora's Municipal Center "was a peaceful protest, with people carrying violins and cellos, playing in honor of Elijah McClain," said Joy Adams, a cellist who traveled from Boulder to play during the vigil. "There were children in the crowd, musicians playing, people holding candles and roses and sitting on the ground...We were playing Pachelbel's Canon, and the police went nuts -- beating people with batons and spraying tear gas in their faces."
Protests had begun earlier in the afternoon, and police arrived in riot gear just as the violin vigil was about to begin at 8:30 p.m.
"The protest became even more confusing at about 9 p.m. when police commanded people to disperse, but then allowed them to reconvene in an adjacent parking lot for the violin vigil. More than 1,000 people remained as police observed and apparently backed off their demands to end the protest," according to the Aurora Sentinel.
"A call went out for bowed instrument players to come to Aurora's City Center Park for an improvised, peaceful jam to honor and grieve the senseless loss of Elijah McClain," said arts journalist John Moore on his Facebook page.
"But just before the scheduled 8:30 start time, pepper spray was deployed, followed by rows of Aurora police in riot gear methodically moving the hundreds who had spread out all over the lawn in front of city hall toward an empty parking lot far from where a few dozen musicians bravely played, and played on," Moore said. "Thankfully, the police never went after the musicians themselves, but they incited unnecessary aggression and heightened tension (but no violence) from a crowd that wasn't there to make noise. They were there to listen. To music. But once provoked, the music became the soundtrack to an ugly conflict between art and authority."
"I attended what was to be a violin vigil for Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colorado tonight," said photographer Gile Clasen on his Facebook page. "I walked in with families and children. I believe we were all there to mourn and demand justice. Before the event could start the police, dressed in militaristic riot gear, created a line and demanded everyone leave."
"I witnessed individuals pepper sprayed and hit with batons. I watched as the police pointed their weapons toward the crowd," Clasen said. "Before it was over, Jeff Hughes stood on a truck and played his violin. Later, Ashanti Floyd 'The Mad Violinist' and Lee England Jr. lead us all while a police helicopter hovered over the group. Their rendition of 'Killing Me Softly' was haunting and beautiful. This is what we were there to do, listen to amazing musicians and mourn in community. When the police stopped pushing the group - there was peace and chanting and crying. We came to a vigil in peace. The violence was never necessary. Not to Elijah McClain, not tonight not to so many others."Tweet
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