Crime & Justice

Speakers at Tyre Nichols funeral demand US police reform

Washington, Feb 1 (EFE).- The funeral for Tyre Nichols – an 29-year-old African American man beaten to death by police in early January, was held Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee, with attendees demanding reform to end police violence.

The ceremony was held in the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis with the Nichols family in attendance along with US Vice President Kamala Harris, well-known civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton and relatives of other African American victims of police violence such as George Floyd.

If there was one constant in the eulogies delivered during the religious service it was the demand that Congress approve the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which includes significant police reforms.

Nichols’ mother, Rowvaughn Wells, could not have been more clear, saying that “We need to get that bill passed, because if we don’t – that blood – the next child that dies, that blood is going to be on (the) hands (of US lawmakers).”

The service began with a 70-person choir singing “Strength Like No Other,” during which many of those in the church rose from their seats.

At the front of the church was the casket containing the body of Nichols, who died after a group of police officers beat him with truncheons, kicked him in the head and tased him on Jan. 7 after they had detained him for a traffic violation.

Currently, two suspended Memphis police officers, one of them African American and the other white, are being investigated, while another five officers – all of them black – have been fired from the force and are facing assorted criminal charges.

During her remarks at the service, Harris recalled that between 2017-2021, when she was a US senator from California, she was one of the lawmakers who drafted the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Harris said that now, as vice president, she is demanding that Congress approve that bill.

The initiative, first presented in 2020 and then again in 2021, stipulates the creation of a national registry catalogueing bad police practices to prevent officers from enjoying impunity for their actions when they transfer to a different jurisdiction.

In addition, the bill seeks to reform “qualified immunity,” a legal doctrine that protects state and local officials, including law enforcement officers, from individual responsibility if they violate a clearly established constitutional right. Critics of the doctrine say that it serves to shield the perpetrators of abuses.

Harris said that “This violent act … was not in the interest of keeping the public safe,” asking “Was (Nichols) also not entitled to the right to be safe?”

During the funeral service, the vice president sat in one of the front rows of the church beside Nichols’ mother and the family attorney, Ben Crump.

The eulogy that, without doubt, received the biggest ovations and cries of indignation from those in the church was delivered by Sharpton.

Saying that the police did not even ask Nichols for his drivers license before they pulled him from his car and began beating him, Sharpton emphasized that “You don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself,” referring to the police.

Sharpton said that the officers acted in the way they did because “they feel that there is no accountability” for their actions, adding that he and others would not stop until the officers pay for what they did and the system is changed.

In that regard, he called for passage of the police reform bill so that officers “think twice” before they fire their weapon at someone who is unarmed or press their knee on someone’s neck, as a white police officer did to Floyd in 2020, suffocating him even though he was already handcuffed and prone on the street.

Regarding the Nichols case, Sharpton alluded to the fact that most of the officers in the matter were African American, saying, “Let’s get rid of qualified immunity and see if (black police officers) learn the same manners you have on the white side of town,” where – he said – crime can be kept under control without beating people to death.



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