Politicians and activists decried the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, after videos showing Memphis police officers violently attacking him in an assault that would lead to his death was released Friday.
A series of four videos show Nichols being pulled out of a vehicle stopped at a red light as he yells, “I didn’t do anything.” Nichols called for his mother as he was tased, punched, kicked and struck with a baton by Memphis police, despite seeming to not fight back.
After the beating, as Nichols moaned in pain propped up against a police car, officers laughed and called him names. Five former officers, fired last week, were charged Thursday with second-degree murder and other crimes in connection to Nichols’ death.
Nichols, described by friends as a “free spirit,” was an avid skateboarder and FedEx worker who had a 4-year-old son.
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Lawmakers condemn attack
- Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., who represents much of Memphis, admonished the officers who assaulted Nichols in a lengthy statement. “Tyre should be at home right now with his family, he should be having dinner with his Mother, he should be skateboarding,” Cohen said. “Instead, these ‘police officers’ took everything from him. The charges are appropriate. Justice for Tyre.”
- Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., described the footage of Nichols’ beating as “difficult to watch” and said her office is in communication with the federal and local officials investigating the attack.
- Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said the video of Nichols’ assault brought “pain, horror, and terror.” Booker promised to continue working toward creating a “coalition necessary to pass policing reform and to help end this.”
- Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., described Nichols as a “man beaten by the power of the state” and called for reform. “We have been here too many times before,” Scott said. “We cannot continue down this path.”
- Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said that he and his wife have read descriptions of the attack but “cannot yet bring ourselves to watch the video.”
- Freshman Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., reviled Nichols’ death as a “lynching,” and called for systemic change. “They bludgeoned him to death while the cameras were on,” Frost said. “He should be alive.”
‘Swift justice’:Experts say the speed of accountability in Tyre Nichols killing was ‘unusual’
Biden, Harris call on Congress to act
Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urged Congress to take swift action by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The policing reform bill aims to bolster police accountability and would end police practices that have been under scrutiny after the deaths of Black Americans.
“Once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve,” Harris said in a statement. “The persistent issue of police misconduct and use of excessive force in America must end now.”
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Protests staged in Nichols’ honor
Activists: Assault ‘familiar’
- Martin Luther King III, an activist and oldest son of the civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, described the attack as “horrific yet perversely familiar.”
- Longtime civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson called for a federal investigation into the Memphis Police Department in the wake of five officers being fired for their involvement in a traffic stop that precipitated Tyre Nichols’ death.
- Ja’Ron Smith, a former Trump advisor who managed criminal justice issues for that administration, said that “a significant change in policing culture” is necessary “for any policy measure to have a shot at success” in an emailed statement.
- Memphis’ Black Lives Matter chapter said in an emailed statement that the only way to prevent deaths like Nichols’ is to “take power and funding away from police and to significantly reduce contact between Black communities and the police.”
- NAACP President Derrick Johnson called for action in an emailed statement: “Now that the footage has been released: how much more bloodshed will it take before Congress acts? How much more trauma and tragedy must the Black community experience in order to spark real change?”
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Lucas Finton
Story Credit: usatoday.com