Memphis and Atlanta brace for protests: NPR
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Authorities in Memphis said they plan to release body camera footage of the police killing of Tire Nichols, leaving cities across the United States on edge and bracing for a familiar ritual of protests, outrage and calls for a national police reform.
Following Thursday’s announcement of the charges against the officers, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said the city will release body camera footage on Friday after 6 p.m. CT.
In an email to NPR Friday morning, the Memphis Police Department said it was still unsure of the exact time of the release, but it could happen “sometime after 5:00 p.m. CT.”
The video will be uploaded to YouTube in four different parts. Neighborhood surveillance video will appear alongside body camera footage, all of which depict a three-minute period of events leading up to Nichols’ death.
Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx employee, was arrested Jan. 7 for what police said was reckless driving. After attempting to flee on foot, Nichols was severely beaten by police. He died in hospital three days later.
“Make no mistake: Tire Nichols was, at all times, an innocent victim that night. He did nothing wrong. He was caught in a sting,” said Antonio Romanucci, a lawyer representing his family, at a press conference on Friday. .
The five officers have since been fired and face charges of second degree murder, assault and kidnapping. State and federal authorities are also investigating the agents.
Nichols’ lawyers and family, who privately viewed the video of the arrest, called it “appalling”, “odious” and “horrifying”.
It shows Nichols being savagely beaten, kicked, pepper sprayed and struck with a stun gun, according to one of the Nichols’ family attorneys. In the video, they said, Nichols can be heard pleading for his mother and being allowed to return home.
“It was a human piñata,” Romanucci said earlier in the week. “It was a pure and shameless beating of this young boy for three minutes.”
Lawyers for Nichols’ family call for investigation into ‘saturation patrols’
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Activists are already calling for reform in Memphis and across the country, with many calling for a completely overhauled approach to policing.
Amber Sherman, a local Black Lives Matter organizer, told NPR’s Debbie Elliot, “The only way for us to end the injustice that keeps happening and the killings of black people that keep happening is to stop using the police to enforce traffic.”
Lawyers for the Nichols family called on the DOJ to investigate ‘saturation patrols,’ which they described as large police teams patrolling neighborhoods in the name of decreasing violent crime but instead promoting a state of “wolf pack” spirit. Lawyers say the five officers who beat Nichols were part of such a unit.
“It doesn’t matter if the officer is a black officer, a Hispanic officer, or a white officer. It’s the culture that lets them think they can do that in Tire,” attorney Ben Crump said Friday. “And we have to call that culture out every chance we get.”
Lawyers for the family said they applauded the severity and speed of the charges against the officers, who are all black.
“You can no longer tell us that we have to wait six months to a year, even though we received a video with evidence of the excessive force and the crime,” Crump said. “We have the plan now, America, and we will accept no less in the future. We will not have black officers treated any differently than white officers under the law.”
Memphis authorities and Nichols’ family urge protesters to remain peaceful after video leaks
In a video statement released Thursday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the city would launch an outside review of its specialty units, saying it was clear officers violated local policies and training practices.
National leaders like the Reverend Al Sharpton said the police brutality against Nichols was made even more painful because of the officers’ race. All five officers, like Nichols, are black.
“We fought to put black people in the police,” he told the BBC. “For them to act in such a brutal way is more egregious than I can tell you. […] I don’t believe those five black police officers would have done that if he had been a young white man.”
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, the first black woman to hold the city’s police station, pledged ‘absolute accountability’ for those responsible for Nichols’ death, but asked the city to remain calm waiting for.
“I expect you to feel outraged at the disregard for basic human rights as our police officers took an oath to do the opposite of what happened on the video,” she said. declared. “But we need to make sure our community is safe in this process.”
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, advocated the same approach, but for a personal reason.
“I don’t want us to burn cities, destroy our streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said at a vigil for Nichols Thursday night.
“We want peace. We don’t want any type of uproar. We don’t want any type of disturbance. We want peaceful protests,” Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, reiterated early Friday afternoon.
Schools in the Memphis area have canceled all after-school activities and postponed Saturday school events as an added precaution, reports the Associated Press. Some local businesses, including the Memphis Power Co. and the University of Memphis, also planned to close early.
Cities were already preparing for protests following a police killing in Atlanta
President Biden joined Nichols’ family in their grief Thursday, saying “outrage is understandable, but violence is never okay.”
Biden also called Nichols’ death a “painful reminder” of the need for law enforcement reform, calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban certain policing techniques and create a national database on police misconduct.
Cities across the United States were already poised to demonstrate this week after demonstrators took to the streets of Atlanta to protest the police killing of 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Perez.
Perez and other social justice activists were protesting a new police training facility known as “Cop City” that is planned for what was once a 300-acre Atlanta forest.
Fierce opposition to the development erupted in unrest and vandalism last week. Six people have been charged with domestic terrorism related to the riots.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Thursday, authorizing the call-up of 1,000 National Guard troops through Feb. 9.
CBS reports that the national police have been coordinating a response to possible protests since Monday. In a call last night, police departments across the country were told that body camera footage would be released today.