“Tyre Nichols was publicly lynched. He is a victim of the chronically toxic police culture that too often treats Black and brown people as inconvenient and disposable objects,” said Marquez Claxton, director of public relations and political affairs for the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.
The deadly Memphis police beating of Nichols, which was filmed on multiple body and street cameras and televised on Jan. 27th, has got the nation talking and protesting.
The sheer barbarism of the deadly assault has talking heads and news anchors tearing up and referencing their own sons. With five Black police officers quickly arrested and charged, this particular murder touched everyone. The peaceful protests the police, politicians and some community advocates were prepped to call for, resulted in the days-later standing down of the white cop Preston Hemphill, who tried to taser Tyre and called on him to be stomped; and three EMTs who seemed to be derelict in their duty to render adequate assistance to the battered and bruised Nichols.
On Jan. 30th, an emotional Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. hosted a candlelight vigil “to grieve and uplift Nichols’ memory” on the steps of Queens Borough Hall.
“Tyre Nichols was a beloved son. Tyre Nichols was a devoted father. Tyre Nichols was a dedicated friend, a talented skateboarder, and a positive influence on so many in his community. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. Instead, he is yet another social media hashtag and the latest name to be carved into the never-ending list of innocent lives lost at the hands of law enforcement,” said Richards.
“This hurt I feel and we all feel as we watch the video of Tyre’s lynching is devastating, but we don’t have to process it alone,” he added as he urged the community to join him at the vigil to “honor Tyre Nichols’ life and demand accountability for the officers and the system that stole it.”
As police training and reform become the buzzword responses on mainstream media by politicos, police misconduct apologists, and other hopeful activists, NYC Councilman Charles Barron maintains that you cannot reform grandfathered-in police culture that leads to the killing of countless unarmed Black and brown people.
The response to the Tyre Nichols killing “has to be connected to something of substance,” Barron said. “It is time to bring before the people the Community Power Act [Intro 0463], calling for an elected Civilian Complaint Review Board and Independent Agency Oversight of police misconduct.”
Saying that the people of the city should elect the CCRB, Barron determined, “History has clearly shown that even with the clear and compelling evidence of video documentation, the bias and racism of the justice system has not significantly changed. It is time to demand a hearing or discharge bill to the full council in seeking the passage of the Community Power Act into law. Intro 0463-2022 Community Power Act [a local law to amend the New York City charter and the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to creating an elected civilian review board and independent prosecutor in repealing the civilian complaint review board and independent police investigation and audit board].”
Famed writer, author, speaker and historian—and Amsterdam News reporter and columnist—Herb Boyd wrote in this week’s paper that “Each day brings more arrests—now up to seven officers and three Memphis Fire Department personnel—and what might have been the motivation of these officers, including investigations that one of the officers might have targeted Nichols for a relationship with his ex-wife.
What is absolutely incontrovertibly true are the words of Cerelyn Davis, the Memphis police chief, who defined the beating as an act of ‘inhumanity.’ And later added, ‘I felt that I needed to do something and do something quickly. I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything of that nature my entire career.’”
On Jan. 7, Memphis police from the SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods) ‘elite unit claimed they stopped Tyre Nichols for alleged reckless driving. Later, police chief C.J. Davies stated there was no evidence of reckless driving. The officers however, dragged Nichols out of his vehicle, yelled profanities at the bewildered Nichols, amidst an onslaught of blows, asked “What did I do?” The white officer Preston Hemphill attempted to tase him, as Nichols managed to get out from up under the scrummage, Hemphill told the five Black officers to go after him, shouting, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
The officers caught up with Nichols, and commenced to do just that. He was kicked in the face, beaten with nightsticks, punched, dragged to lean against a car, and propped up when he slumped over. All the while the five cops were chatting about what seemed to be their defense. They determined that Nichols must be on some sort of drug—no evidence of that; and that he went for one of their guns, though there was no evidence of that, either.
EMTs came in an ambulance, and seemed to take a while before rendering Nichols any assistance.
The young father was taken to a hospital and images of his swollen, broken body hit the media. Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after the barbaric beating. Questions were asked. Answers were demanded, and within 19 days the five Black offices were named, arrested, and charged.
While the images of the five officers were all over the media, especially after they were fired, questions were asked about the other cops who were on scene, and the white officer who was part of the initial stop, and demanded that his colleagues “stomp” him, when they catch him.
REALTED: Tyre Nichols Funeral Service
It was only on Jan. 29, weeks after the five Black officers were fired and days after they were charged with second degree murder and other criminal charges, that community pressure led to Hemphill finally being relieved of duty and placed on paid administrative leave.
Crump and the community are asking why Hemphill is still collecting his paycheck, and why he was not also arrested and charged.
On the same Monday, three EMTs and another officer were released from duty.
The video of the beating was shown on Jan. 27th, 2023. It was treated almost like a big film premier with all the extraordinary pomp and circumstance of must-see-TV viewing.
Bibi Suares said on Facebook that it was “being promoted and advertised like the next blockbuster movie.”
After the 7 p.m. showing it was like a network and cable news spectacular. Shows were dedicated to deciphering every frame of the different camera angles. Social media was awash with people distraught and verbalizing the trauma, pain, and anguish.
Retired NYPD officer Noel Leader posted on Facebook, “As a police officer, it is a crime to stand by and watch a felony assault [or] murder occuring in your presence. As a police officer, it is also a crime not to report a felony assault [or] murder that occurs in your presence. There are crimes of commission and crimes of omission. This police officer [Preston Hemphill] should have been fired like the others for failing to do his duty.”
This week, word spread that one of the officers attacked Nichols because they had dated the same woman. Another report dismissed that as not a fact. Some members of the community is keeping it in mind though.
On Jan. 28, Walter Beach, former principal and Cleveland Brown champion, said on Back to Basics on Inception FM: “The whole aspect has been appropriated by the dominant media of how we should even respond…white folks tell us how we should respond to our grief.”
Beach, who also was a training director for the NYC Department of Corrections, also spoke on his experience of racism in his lifetime, “I am not entitled to be treated as a human being. For 90 years I have experienced what it is to be a Black man in America. ..What is your experience?”
He also said, “The Colonial Western European Anglo White influence has appropriated how Black folks should respond to their grief, anger, et cetera. For me, it is always ZGR [Zero Grade Reliance] on the manipulation.”
After the outrage, the Memphis Police Department stated that they were disbanding the 50 person SCORPION team, saying “It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate” it.
Speaking on MSNBC, Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson said that it was if the SCORPION unit “occupied the community rather than helped the community.”
“The case will be massive. It is setting up to create so many precedents,” said civil rights lawyer Brian Figeroux. “This Tyre Nichols case is going to send ripples through the courts and practice of law, and law enforcement. We see the speed of the firings and arrests; then there’s the relatively quick release of the video; the disbanding of the so-called elite SCORPION unit, and now the ongoing arrests of those officers and EMTs at the scene of this crime.”
Figeroux was one of the original lawyers in the scandalous 1997 Abner Louima police assault case.
“Everyone involved in the Louima case, the police and EMTs, should have been charged. Why weren’t all the officers who were in the 70th precinct arrested? In the same way all the officers should be charged in the Tyre Nichols case. All of them who were on the scene, who were involved in the beating, or did nothing to make it stop, or help Tyre as he was beaten.”
In addition to the five officers fired and charged, two sheriff’s deputies have also now not been fired, but relieved of duty.
“Every last one of them should be held accountable for this police lynching,” said family attorney Benjamin Crump.
In a statement, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy’s office said, “The current charges do not preclude us from adding additional charges as more information is presented. We are looking at all individuals involved in the events leading up to, during, and after the beating of Tyre Nichols. This includes the officer present at the initial encounter who has not—so far —been charged, Memphis Fire Department personnel, and persons who participated in preparing documentation of the incident afterward.”
Post NYC police victims Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Amadou Diallo, whose death by police bullets will see its 23rd anniversary on Feb. 4, 2023, Claxton told the Amsterdam News that there needs to be a “deep dive into the “dynamics of toxic policing.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Republican counterpart Tim Scott have said that Nichols’ killing has inspired them to talk about working on legislation to reform policing “considering all legislative options to raise the levels of transparency, accountability, and professionalism in American policing,” according to Booker’s office.
Services for Tyre Nichols were held at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on Feb. 1, with the eulogy delivered by National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Once again, we are forced to watch another horrific video of cops using brutal force to kill a Black man. Nearly three years after the murder of George Floyd shook the world, here we are,” said Sharpton. “This video should be all a jury needs to convict each of the five officers who relentlessly beat Tyre Nichols to death. Justice needs to be delivered for Tyre and his family. I don’t think anyone who could stomach getting through this footage would disagree.”
As the nation feels like it is deadly deja vu all over again, Sharpton added, “The sad reality is police brutality will be an ever-present threat for Black and brown Americans unless cops continually see that those who use blunt force will go to jail. They need to understand that a badge isn’t a shield that lets them kill someone during a traffic stop. And the only way to do that is through convictions and legislation. I thank the Justice Department for opening a civil rights investigation and urge its lawyers to be swift and transparent. Our entire nation must come together to condemn this grotesque violation of human rights.”
The Tyre murder has raised community angst, anger, devastation, tears, and resonating trauma. But, Black trauma is not for mainstream entertainment.
“How many times do you think Black people are going to just simply march when cops are slaughtering us in the streets?” asked New Jersey activist Divine Allah. The Black Panther Youth Minister, and recent Trenton City Council candidate, added, “This is not the first time, they just got caught.
“In a relatively short period of time, we have been here too many times before. We don’t need any more cultural competency or sensitivity training. We have exhausted every method from ineffective laws, community group and church involvement, all the programs and week policies. What’s left for Black men is to fight back to save their lives in a real way. No more Black caucus meetings and rallies, that stuff does not work. Police reform is dismantling the policies which allow them to kill people with impunity, with qualified immunity. The community should be creating our own civilian review board, challenging the courts, and having brutal cops be fired on the spot. I’m with that.”
Only giving her first name Aliah, and saying that she would not be surprised if it turns out that there was a personal reason why Nichols was stopped and beaten to death, a Crown Heights mother told the paper, “I’ve got biracial children, and my son has been arrested on mistaken identity, and kicked between the legs. If this would happen to my child, I guarantee there would be an eye for an eye. Tyre was somebody’s baby. He was 140 pounds. His mother is going to have to think about him calling out for her for the rest of her life.”
Retired detective Marquez Claxton told the Amsterdam News, “The color, complexion, or personal politics of the police offenders should be evaluated in the context of the significant role that race places in overall law enforcement, but that conversation should not detract from the painful seriousness of these repeated fatal encounters when even a conversation wasn’t necessary.”
Claxton concluded, “Absent a shift away from the traditional policing model towards a holistic and a comprehensive public safety model, we will exhaust ourselves with mourning.”
President Joe Biden invited Nichols’ parents RowVaughn and Rodney Wells to the U.S. Capitol for his State of the Union address next week.
Meanwhile, as she publicly grieves, Wells called her son a “modern day messiah,” and said that she has to believe that her “son was sent on an assignment, and he’s completed that assignment.” Why else, she said on MSNBC, would he be “sacrificed for the greater good.”
“As the Tyre Nichols murder shows, police brutality is not so much about race, as it’s about perceived powerlessness and poverty,” said Heru Ptah, author of “Somewhere in Brooklyn,” a novel about a father who kidnaps a cop who killed his son.
“Police abuse the people they know they can get away with abusing, which tend to be poor people, or people they perceive to be poor and powerless. This happens wherever in the world you go. Look at Iran, look at Russia. Black people are the predominant victims of police brutality, because on a whole as a people we are considered to be poor and powerless. The abuse of Tyre Nichols began before the police pulled him out of his car. On a subconscious level, those Black officers, like their white counterparts, predetermined they could abuse him. It’s their programming, and it was instinctive and automatic, and the only way to stop it is to empower ourselves.”
Bridging Africa and Black America (BABA) Inc. Executive Director Abdoulaye Cisse told the Amsterdam News, “There’s always been a difficult relationship between police and young Black men. I grew up in the Stop and Frisk era, and I remember being run up on by police for no reason. I have been wrongfully charged and falsely accused. I am a people person, and in the line of work I do in community affairs, as a community leader, I am supposed to be able to work with the police department. But, they always remind us why there is a break when they continue to brutalize us. When I see officers doing community policing and say, ‘Good morning,’ I don’t know the history of the individual [or] if it will result in a bad response. So usually now, I don’t say anything. I want to work with the police for my community, but we just are not always sure about what could happen.”
We the community have reviewed the tape, and there was no threat,” said Emarie Knight, health and wellness coach, “and then they had the nerve to lie. May justice of the land be administered to the fullest. And we know how, and why this justice system does Black men the way they do.
“They are considered a wolf pack… as it was not necessary to do bodily harm. Why? is the million dollar question. What is it going to take to give ourselves some grace and stand in the gap for one another? They treated this young man like an animal that needed to be put down. They should have known better. Shame on you. Your families have to suffer because of your acts of senseless violence. Our sister in charge acted swiftly, I know her head and heart had a battle. But all kudos to her. It sickens me that another Black man is killed, and there is no natural affection and the love of these Black men is not cool but cold blooded.
“They punished this young man for running, and his penalty was death. What were they thinking? Apparently they didn’t see their nephew or son on the ground! No recognition of any kind. I get it. Protect and serve the community, but playing your position to build our community is a must. We’ve got to start understanding that we aren’t cut from the same cloth. They forgot the oppressor still has his foot on our necks, and we are still fighting for our freedoms. Every drop of blood that is shed should remind us of this truth.
Knight, a Brooklyn-based healthcare worker concluded, “My heart hurts and my womb aches for this mother, and all the mothers who have lost their sons and daughters especially to Black violence.”