Protesters demonstrating over the death of Elijah McClain blocked Highway 225 in Aurora, Colo., Saturday evening.
McClain, a Black man who worked as a massage therapist, died last year following a confrontation with police officers in Aurora. An officer placed the main in a chokehold, and McClain later suffered a heart attack in an ambulance. He was declared brain dead three days later.
McClain's last words were caught on police body camera footage. In the footage, McClain could be heard saying, "I'm an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don't even kill flies! I don't eat meat! But I don't judge people, I don't judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me ... I'm so sorry."
Thousands of demonstrators gathered at the Aurora Municipal Center Saturday and marched down the highway approximately an hour later. Area police had already shut down the roadway, an area ABC affiliate reported.
The Aurora Police Department reported Saturday that protests remained peaceful, and demonstrators walked back to the municipal center before the highway reopened.
The police department reported that, “There is a small group of agitators who have put on helmets and gloves moving into the peaceful crowd. Please continue to encourage peacefulness,” Saturday night after the highway reopened.
Around 8:00 p.m., police began tweeting the protesters had knocked over a barrier and removed plywood, adding that “tensions” were “rising.”
UPDATE: Protestors near the PD Entrance have knocked down the barrier and removed plywood that is protecting windows. Orders have been given to stay back from the fence.— Aurora Police Dept. ♀️♂️ (@AuroraPD) June 28, 2020
UPDATE: Tensions are rising at the fence. We strongly encourage those here to peacefully demonstrate.— Aurora Police Dept. ♀️♂️ (@AuroraPD) June 28, 2020
Protests in Colorado have continued in the state over the death of McClain after countrywide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody last month, have brought racial injustice and police brutality to the forefront of national debate.
Colorado Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado loosens restrictions on antibody treatment, holds off on mask mandate Lobbying world Overnight Health Care — Presented by Emergent Biosolutions — Pfizer seeks authorization for antiviral pill MORE (D) announced Wednesday that he has directed officials to reopen McClain's case after 2.6 million people signed a petition calling for a more in-depth investigation into his death.
“Public confidence in our law enforcement process is incredibly important now more than ever,” Polis said in a statement. “I am hearing from many Coloradans who have expressed concerns with the investigation of Elijah McClain’s death.
Interim Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson released a statement Saturday calling for peaceful protests.
“A peaceful demonstration, like the one planned here today, allows their very important voices to be heard. It promotes meaningful conversations and brings about purposeful change. Our community is reeling from the tragic loss of Elijah McClain who was not only a beloved son, brother and friend, but also a valued member of our community,” she shared in a statement on Twitter.
“Today, the men and women of the Aurora Police Department are here merely to ensure peace is maintained. Unfortunately, we know outsiders may be in attendance to hijack the intended message today by being destructive and wreaking havoc upon a community they do not live nor work in,” she continued.
Aurora officials announced Friday that the three police officers involved in the death of McClain have been reassigned. A city spokesperson told CBS News that they were moved "to protect those officers."