More protests have erupted in the US city of Memphis against the killing of young Black man, Tyre Nichols, by the police, with protesters marching blaming the US government for the rising violence against the Black community and saying the system is “murdering us.”
Gathered for a common cause, the residents of Memphis, which consists of 65 percent of Black people, took to the streets as they held placards reading “RIP Tyre Nichols” and chanted, ”Whose streets? Our streets!”, and “No justice, No peace”.
At one point, the demonstrators also surrounded and cat-called a police car that was monitoring the march, and shouted against it, “Say his name! Tyre Nichols”.
“It's supposed to be a system that protects us, that provides safety for us. But instead, it's killing us, murdering us, innocent lives who just began their adulthood,” lamented the protesters.
“I go around Memphis, scared, every single night. This is a place where I get my education and where I live, and so I don't want to be scared going across the street,” a protester said adding that: “I need to change to survive, just as many other 19-year-olds need to change to survive. I want to make it to 35. I want to make it past 30. I wished Tyre could have made it past 30.”
In the meantime, the police unit that included the Memphis officers involved in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols was disbanded on Saturday amid the snowballing protests.
In a statement, the police department said it was permanently deactivating the SCORPION unit after the police chief spoke with members of Nichols' family, community leaders and other officers.
Consisting of 40 officers, the SCORPION unit was launched in November 2021 to target "violent crime".
The Memphis protest organizer Amber Sherman said this is only a first step and other, similar specialized units also need to be eliminated, as she referred to the dismissal of the unit that attacked Nichols.
“Just by ending that unit, that's a good move. But then you still have these same task forces that are doing that same terrorism, assaulting people, over criminalizing, the poor and low-income neighborhoods,” she said.
The officers, all Black, were dismissed from the police department last week.
Another resident, Towanna Murphy, said that she teaches her son how to behave and not to look intimidating to the police, if he ever encounters in such an incident.
“I talk to my son on a regular basis and I tell him, “Put your hands up. No matter what you do, just put your hands up. Don't reach in your pocket. Because even if you are just reaching for a piece of candy or a key, they'll think you're reaching for a gun and they'll shoot you. Don't run. Just stand there. Whatever they actually do, just do it,” exclaimed Murphy.
The rallies broke across the US after the release of police bodycam footage showing five Memphis officers violently kicking, punching, tasing, and pepper-spraying 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop on January 7.
Nichols, 29, and a father to a 4-year-old succumbed to his injuries three days after the confrontation around his neighborhood in Memphis, where he lived with his mother and stepfather, and worked at FedEx.
The footage clearly shows officers dragging Nichols from the driver’s seat of his car as he yells, “Damn, I didn’t do anything. … I am just trying to go home,” after which the officers forced him to the ground as they order him to lie on his stomach, but he broke free and sprinted away.
The officers chased him and later repeatedly screamed for his mother’s help, “Mooooom!”, as he struggled with officers.
The officers were charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct, and oppression in Nichols' death.
“To the five police officers that murdered my son, you also disgraced your own families when you did this,” RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’s mother, said in the news conference, adding that “I’m going to pray for you and your families because at the end of the day, this shouldn’t have happened. This just shouldn’t have happened. We want justice for my son.”
President Joe Biden said he was "outraged" and "deeply pained" after watching the video.
Nichols’s death marks the high-profile instance of police officers' use of excessive force, as well as the latest face of a US racial justice movement galvanized by the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
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