Photos by Tina Gutierrez
On Aug. 24, 2019, 23-year-old Elijah McClain was walking home in Aurora, Colorado, moving to the music coming through his headphones. Someone thought he looked suspicious and called 911.
Police arrived, tried to detain McClain, who resisted, saying he had the right to proceed home. The situation escalated. McClain was forced to the ground, and subdued with a carotid hold. Paramedics were summoned, injected him with the sedative ketamine. On the way to the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest, and died several days later.
Elijah McClain was a massage therapist who reportedly loved animals and taught himself both the guitar and the violin. He was 5’6″ and weighed 140 lbs. He suffered from asthma.
The death of George Floyd at the hand of a Minneapolis policeman in May created a heightened interest in past cases of police aggression, including that of McClain. In response to his love for music, and the violin, musicians around the country organized vigils this summer to honor his memory, bring attention to police brutality, and raise money to support the establishment of a foundation in his name.
“The vigil was meant to use the medium of music to restore the humanity Elijah was denied when he was murdered.” Organizer Naimah Bilal
Niamah Bilal organized a vigil here in Cincinnati, with the help of Preston Charles III and JP Leong. It was held July 12 at Washington Park. Approximately 60 musicians performed, socially distanced across the green before an audience of 200-300.
“The vigil was meant to use the medium of music to restore the humanity Elijah was denied when he was murdered,” said Bilal. “Inspired by the many violin vigils held around the nation, I imagined the vigil as a pathway to help us all transmute some of our grief over losing Elijah and drive awareness about his case. The vigil has had the dual impact of reinforcing music’s role as a unique and rich entry point into the politics surrounding social justice and human rights activism. By those two measures alone, I can count our efforts as successful.”
The photographs below were taken by Tina Gutierrez (who photographs feature content for Movers & Makers). She is offering these, and others, for sale as a fundraiser on behalf of this legal effort. All proceeds from digital downloads and all profits from prints will go towards the GoFundMe campaign. You may also contribute directly without purchasing images.