Impassioned calls for police reform at Tyre Nichols’ funeral
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tire Nichols’ family and friends gathered Wednesday for a funeral, which marked a celebration of his life with outrage over the brutal beatings he suffered from the Memphis police force and heated calls for police reform Association. The referee.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tire Nichols’ family and friends gathered Wednesday for a funeral, which marked a celebration of his life with outrage over the brutal beatings he suffered from the Memphis police force and heated calls for police reform Association.
Rev. Al Sharpton and Vice President Kamala Harris both delivered impassioned speeches urging Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a sweeping package of policing reforms that would include a national register of officers disciplined for misconduct, a ban on knock orders and other measures.
Harris said the beating of Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, by five black police officers was an act of violence that violated the police’s stated duty to ensure public safety.
“It wasn’t in the interest of public safety because you have to ask yourself, wasn’t it in the interest of public safety that Tire Nichols would be with us today? Didn’t he also have the right to security? So when we talk about public safety, let’s understand what it means in its truest form. Tire Nichols should have been safe,” she said.
Sharpton said the officers who hit Nichols might have acted differently if there had been real accountability for their actions. He also said he thinks if Nichols had been white, “you wouldn’t have hit him like that.”
“We understand that there are public safety concerns. We understand that there are needs that address crime,” Sharpton said.
“But you don’t fight crime by becoming a criminal yourself. You don’t fight back against street thugs and become thugs yourself. You don’t fight gangs by becoming five gunmen against one unarmed man. This isn’t the police. They’re punks,” he said to thunderous applause from the crowd.
Rev. J. Lawrence Turner called Nichols “a good man, a beautiful soul, a son, a father, a brother, a friend, a man” gone too soon and “his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of.” Happiness, denied the dignity of his humanity, denied the right to watch the sun go down another day, to hug his mother, to hang out with his friends, to hold his child and the right to grow old.”
“As we celebrate Tire’s life and comfort this family, we share with this nation that the repeat of this episode creating Black Lives hashtags has been canceled and will not be renewed for another season,” Turner said. “We have come and we will overcome.”
Tiffany Rachal, the mother of Jalen Randle, who was fatally shot by a Houston police officer in 2022, sang a rendition of the classic gospel standard “Total Praise” to thunderous applause from the congregation and Nichols’ family.
“All mothers around the world have to come together, have to come together to stop all this,” Rachal said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Nichols family, pointed to the illustrative video showing officers punching, kicking and hitting Nichols even after he was helpless on the ground.
“Why couldn’t they see the humanity in Tire?” he asked.
In the three weeks since Nichols’ death, five police officers have been fired and charged with murder. Your special unit has been disbanded. Two other officers were suspended. Two Memphis Fire Department paramedics and a lieutenant were also fired. And more discipline could come.
But Wednesday was about Nichols, a skateboarder and amateur photographer who made boxes at FedEx, made friends on morning visits to Starbucks, and always greeted his mom and stepdad with a sunny “Hello, parents!” when he got home.
Nichols was the baby of her family, born 11 years after his closest siblings. He had a 4-year-old son and was working hard to better himself as a father, his family said.
Nichols grew up in Sacramento, California and loved the San Francisco 49ers. He got to Memphis just before the coronavirus pandemic and got stuck. But he was fine with it because he was dating his mother, RowVaughn Wells, and they were incredibly close, she said. He even had her name tattooed on his arm.
Friends at a memorial service last week described him as cheerful and friendly, quick with a smile, often goofy.
“This man walked into a room and everyone loved him,” said Angelina Paxton, a friend who traveled to Memphis from California for the memorial service.
Nichols was beaten after police stopped him on January 7 for an alleged traffic violation. The video, released after pressure from Nichols’ family, shows officers holding him down and repeatedly hitting, kicking and beating him with batons while he yelled for his mother.
Nichols’ death was the latest in a series of early police reports of their use of force, which were later found to have minimized or omitted mention of violent encounters.
Family members of others killed by police attended the funeral including George Floyd, Botham Jean, Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor.
AP reporters Travis Loller and Jonathan Mattise contributed from Nashville, Tennessee.
For more information on the Tire Nichols case, visit https://apnews.com/hub/tyre-nichols.
Aaron Morrison and Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press