Family, friends get together; Kamala Harris speaks
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Family and friends of Tire Nichols were joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and the Reverend Al Sharpton for a funeral on Wednesday that was expected to draw thousands following the brutal beating of a 29-year-old father . and avid skateboarder.
Her mother, RowVaughn Wells, thanked local activists for their support, as well as the family’s lawyers and police for acting quickly. Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said the family will fight for justice not just for his stepson, but for others who have been killed by police.
“Tyre was a beautiful person and for this to happen to him was just unimaginable,” Wells said.
Harris spoke briefly during the service, acknowledging Nichols’ family and calling his death, which came three days after he was beaten in January by Memphis police officers who have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder, a “violent act which “was not in the interest of ensuring public safety.”
“Didn’t he also have a right to be safe?” Harris said, speaking at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.
The service, delayed due to weather and travel delays, began Wednesday with a 70-person choir singing “Strength Like No Other” and remarks from the church’s senior pastor, Reverend J. Lawrence Turner who called Nichols “a good person, a beautiful soul, a son, a father, a brother, a friend, a human being.”
“We came with heavy hearts that can only be healed by God’s grace, full transparency, accountability and comprehensive legislative reform,” Turner said.
Mourners were invited to read Nichols’ obituary during a photo slideshow that included images of Nichols, who was beaten for three minutes after a traffic stop and foot chase on Jan. 7, according to reports. Body-worn camera and utility pole footage released by Memphis police. Department. The footage shows the officers pepper spraying, kicking, punching and punching Nichols while he was restrained, hitting him with a baton and shooting him with a stun gun.
After the beating, Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days later, after suffering “profuse bleeding from severe beating”, according to an autopsy commissioned by his family.
Sharpton, founder and president of the civil rights organization, National Action Network, acknowledged Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, were present before inviting Harris to take the speech.
“They know what it’s like to sit at a funeral like this,” Sharpton said.
Harris called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as Nichols’ mother wept and clapped. This bill did not pass the Senate in 2021.
“You have been extraordinary in terms of strength, courage and grace, and we mourn with you and the people of our country mourn with you,” Harris told Nichols’ family.
Sharpton delivered the eulogy at the request of Nichols’ family. Sharpton said Nichols’ death was personal to him in part because the officers charged with his death were black. The five officers were charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death, among other related charges, and were all released on bail ranging from $250,000 to $350,000.
“People had to walk and go to jail and some lost their lives to open the doors for you and how dare you act like that sacrifice was for nothing,” Sharpton said during the eulogy.
Sharpton then invited family attorney Ben Crump to issue a call to action and Nichols’ siblings and parents to share their memories of him.
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“WE HAVE LOST ONE OF OUR OWN”:Black skateboarders from Memphis and beyond pay tribute to Tire Nichols
Nichols’ death has sparked mostly peaceful protests across the country and renewed discussion about federal legislation to reform police and the possibility of systemic change.
The Memphis Fire Department also fired three employees for failing to provide Nichols with adequate medical aid after he arrived on the scene. Authorities announced on Monday that two additional officers had also been relieved of their duties.
Officers’ duty to provide medical care was a key issue in the murder trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was later sentenced to 22½ years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.
Federal investigators opened a civil rights investigation, and the Memphis Police Department permanently disbanded the specialized street unit the officers belonged to, known by the acronym SCORPION.
Nichols’ parents are expected to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week after being invited by the Congressional Black Caucus, which is seeking to meet with the president to push for reform of the police.
Notice:Will Tire Nichols’ death lead to police reform? Police unions stand in the way of change.
Our point of view:Police should stop carrying out minor traffic stops that too often turn into major tragedies
Contributors: Laura Testino, Micaela A Watts, Gina Butkovich and Lucas Finton, Memphis Commercial Appeal