Elijah McClain was 23 years old when Aurora, Colorado police stopped him while walking home from a convenience store after buying an iced tea last summer. He was unarmed and had committed no crime, but police had received a report of a "suspicious" male in the area in a ski mask. McClain was wearing a ski mask, which his family says he liked to wear to keep him warm because of his anemia.
In the resulting interaction, police said McClain resisted arrested. He was put in a carotid hold by an officer, after which he became unresponsive. According to reports, police called first responders, who also injected him with ketamine to sedate him. He suffered a heart attack and died in the hospital six days later.
Body cam footage of the incident exists and has been receiving renewed scrutiny after the death of George Floyd.
According to The Cut, "In the footage, an officer can be heard admitting McClain had done nothing illegal prior to his arrest; another accuses McClain of reaching for one of their guns. McClain, meanwhile, can be heard asking the officers to stop, explaining that they started to arrest him as he was 'stopping (his) music to listen.' He gasps that he cannot breathe. He tells them his name, says he has ID but no gun, and pleads that his house is 'right there.' He sobs, and vomits, and apologizes: 'I wasn’t trying to do that,' he says. 'I just can’t breathe correctly.'"
McClain, a massage therapist, was a self-taught musician who was known for performing violin concerts for dogs and cats in the animal shelter to soothe their anxiety. As a result, people have been hosting their own violin vigils for McClain. (A violin protest and vigil in Aurora was broken up by police after they seem to have pepper sprayed the crowd.)
Cincinnati's Vigil for Elijah McClain invites all violin, viola, cello or other acoustic bowed string instrument players to come to the park with their masks, music stands and chairs (if they need one) for a "peaceful physically distanced gathering to play music in honor of Elijah and others."
Set up takes place at 4:45 p.m. The set list and sheet music "with treble, alto, and bass clef parts and chord progressions" are available google.com or email Naimah Bilal at [email protected] for a PDF. (If you need help getting a part printed, let Bilal know.)
All ages and levels are welcome to play.
And if you can't play, you can come to listen and remember McClain and others who have died.
There's a GoFundMe page for McClain at gofundme.com/f/elijah-mcclain.
5:30-7 p.m. Sunday, July 12 at Washington Park (1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine).