Editor’s note: This article contains graphic videos and descriptions of violence.
Protesters took to the streets again over the weekend to denounce police brutality after a video was released depicting the violent police beating in Memphis that left 29-year-old Tire Nichols dead.
Protesters marched through New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, among other cities across the country, on Saturday, holding up signs bearing his name and calling for an end to abuses of authority.
In Memphis, at a makeshift memorial near the corner where Nichols was struck, resident Kiara Hill expressed her disappointment, saying the neighborhood was quiet and family-oriented.
“To see events unfold the way they have, with this Tire Nichols situation, is heartbreaking. I have a son,” Hill told CNN. “And Tyre, of the officers on the scene, was the quietest.”
Nichols could is heard screaming for his mother in video of the Jan. 7 encounter, which begins with a traffic stop and continues to show officers repeatedly beating the young black man with batons, punches and kicks, including in a given moment while holding hands. fastened on the back.
He was dropped to the floor in handcuffs, and it was 23 minutes before a stretcher arrived at the scene. Nichols was eventually hospitalized and died three days later.
“All of these officers failed their oath,” Nichols’ family attorney Ben Crump told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday. “They failed their oath to protect and serve. Watch this video: Was someone trying to protect and serve Tire Nichols?
Since Nichols’ death, the backlash has been relatively swift. The five Memphis officers involved in the beating, who are also black, were fired and charged with murder and kidnapping in Nichols’ death. The unit they were a part of disbanded, and state legislators representing the Memphis area began planning police reform bills.
Crump said the quick firing and arrests of the police officers and the release of the video should be a “blueprint” for how allegations of police brutality are handled in the future. He applauded Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for arresting and charging the officers within 20 days.
“When you see police officers committing crimes against citizens, then we want you to act just as quickly and demonstrate as the chief said, that the community needs to see it, but we also need to see it when it comes to white police officers ” Crump said. .
These are the moments that led to the death of Tire Nichols
The five former Memphis police officers involved in the arrest have been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping, among other charges, according to the Shelby County District Attorney.
The officers, identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr., are expected to be arraigned on February 17.
An attorney for one of the accused officers, Mills Jr., issued a statement Friday night saying he did not cross lines “that others crossed” during the confrontation.
The five officers were members of the now-disbanded SCORPION unit, Memphis police spokeswoman Maj. Karen Rudolph told CNN on Saturday. The unit, launched in 2021, put officers in areas where police were tracking increases in violent crime.
Memphis police announced Saturday that they are disbanding the unit, saying it is “in everyone’s best interest to permanently deactivate the SCORPION unit.”
But disbanding the unit without retraining officers would be “putting lipstick on a pig,” City Council President Martavius Jones told CNN on Saturday.
Member of the City Council Patrice Robinson also told CNN that disbanding the unit does not go far enough to address problems within the agency.
“We have to fight bad players in our community, and now we have to fight our own police officers. This is deplorable,” Robinson said. “We’ll have to do something.”
The fallout from the deadly encounter also extended to other agencies involved.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees who were part of Nichols’ initial care have been relieved of their duties, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. And two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies have been placed on leave pending an investigation.
A pair of Democratic state lawmakers said Saturday they intend to introduce police reform legislation before the Tennessee General Assembly’s Tuesday filing deadline.
The bills would try to address law enforcement officers’ mental health care, hiring, training, discipline practices and other issues, said Rep. GA Hardaway, who represents part of Memphis County and Shelby.
Rep. Joe Towns Jr., who also represents part of Memphis, said the legislation could pass the state House as early as April or May.
While Democrats are in the minority with 24 representatives compared to the Republican majority of 99 representatives, Towns said this legislation is nonpartisan and should be passed by both sides of the legislature.
“You’d be hard-pressed to look at that footage (of Tire Nichols) and see what happened to that young man, OK, and you don’t want to do anything. If a dog in this county was hit like that, what the hell would happen?” said the towns.
As for domestic legislation, Crump asked Congress to pass the George Floyd Police Justice Act, which passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2021 but not the evenly divided Senate.
The Congressional Black Caucus is calling for a meeting with President Joe Biden this week to advance negotiations on police reform, caucus chairman Steven Horsford wrote in a news release Sunday.
“We call on our colleagues in the House and Senate to begin negotiations now and work with us to address the public health epidemic of police violence that disproportionately affects many of our communities,” he wrote. “The brutal beating of Tire Nichols was murder and is a sad reminder that we still have a long way to go to solve systemic police violence in America.”
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Congress to revive national police reform legislation and said the previously stalled legislation was a good place to start.
“It’s the right starting point, and Sen. (Cory) Booker, chairman of the crime subcommittee, has been working on this for years. I think he and Sen. (Tim) Scott should sit down quickly and see if we can revive this effort, but that in itself is not enough. We need a national conversation about policing in an accountable, constitutional and humane way,” he said.
‘It’s not good here’: Ex-NYPD officer reacts to Memphis footage
When she saw her son, badly hurt and swollen in the hospital bed, Nichols’ mother says she knew he wasn’t going to make it.
“When I saw it, I knew my son was gone, at last,” RowVaughn Wells told CNN.
Through tears, the mother said the officers charged in her son’s death “brought shame to their own families. They brought shame to the black community.”
“I don’t have my baby. I’m never going to have my baby again,” she said. But she takes comfort in knowing her son was a good person, she said.
The 29-year-old was a father and also the baby of his family, the youngest of four children. He was a “good boy” who spent his Sundays doing laundry and getting ready for the week, his mother said.
Nichols loved being a father to his 4-year-old son, his family said.
“All he was trying to do was better himself as a father to his 4-year-old son,” Crump said at the family’s news conference.
“He always said he was going to be famous one day. I didn’t know that was what he meant,” Wells said Friday.
A verified GoFundMe campaign started in memory of Tire Nichols had raised more than $936,000 as of Sunday morning. The online fundraiser was set up by Nichols’ mother and reads in part, “My baby was just trying to get home to be safe in my arms. Tire was unarmed, non-threatening and respectful of the police throughout the meeting!