Thousands of people gather near Denver to demand justice for Elijah McClain

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of a municipal building in Aurora, Colorado, Saturday, demanding systemic change and justice in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last year after police strangled him.

Saturday’s protests 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.

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

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

Police with riot gear broke up the protests hours after they started.

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

“They shouldn’t have a job at this particular point,” one woman told Nightly News. “Charges must be brought against them because it was murder that was done.”

An internal investigation previously found that police officers had followed the protocol when McClain was arrested on August 24.

Police had responded to a call from 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 defended himself when officers confronted him and tried to stop him. Police used a choke to subdue McClain, a tactic recently banned in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

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

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

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

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

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