Politicians and activists have renewed calls to keep law enforcement accountable and reform the system at Tyre Nichols‘ funeral service on Wednesday, February 1. Passionate remarks and more insights into Nichols’ life before his death were revealed at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.
Vice President Kamala Harris, Rev. Al Sharpton, and civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump spoke during the service while advocating for change to prevent more deaths from police brutality. Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, the pastor of the church, opened the service with his own speech.
“We serve notice to this nation that the rerun of this episode, that makes Black lives hashtags, has been canceled and will not be renewed for another season,” he said. “We are going to overcome this struggle for justice for our brother Tyre Nichols.”
The program also showcased Nichols’ photography work, which included the lovely sunsets his family says he adored. According to his website, which features his photos, the 29-year-old said photography helped him “look at the world in a more creative way.”
Vice President Harris then took the stage, telling Nichols’ family that Americans “mourn with you.” She also called on Congress to pass the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which would trigger sweeping police reform in the country.
“Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God that when they hold that child, that body and that life will be safe for the rest of his life. Yet, we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today,” she said. “As Vice President of the United States, we demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Joe Biden will sign it and we should not delay and we will not be denied. It is non-negotiable.”
Next was Rev. Sharpton to deliver the eulogy. During his speech, he recognized former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Texas Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, and Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen in the crowd, as well as the families of George Floyd, Botham Jean, Eric Garner, and Breonna Taylor.
He also condemned the five Black police officers facing murder charges in Nichols’ fatal beating, which happened not too far from where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
“There’s nothing more insulting and offensive to those of us that fight to open doors that you walked through those doors and act like the folks we had to fight for to get you through them doors,” Sharpton said. “You didn’t get on the police department by yourself. The police chief didn’t get there by herself. People had to march 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.”
Crump, who’s representing the family of Nichols, says the indictment of the Memphis police officers sets a precedent for similar cases in the future. They were also arrested within 20 days of the attack, which happened on January 7. Nichols died three days later.
“No more can they ever tell us when we have evidence on video of them brutalizing us that it’s going to take six years, that it’s going to take a month, that it’s going to take three years, like Laquan McDonald. No no no,” Crump said at the service. “Twenty days. We’re going to start counting. We can count to 20 and every time you kill one of us on video, we’re going to say the legacy of Tyre Nichols is that we have equal justice swiftly.”
Nichols’ own family was the last to speak at the service, highlighting moments in his life while also echoing calls for change, justice, and action. One of Nichols’ sisters, Keyana Dixon, said she was left “completely heartbroken” upon hearing about the death of her youngest brother:
“On the night of Jan. 7, my brother was robbed of his life, his passions and his talents, but not his light. When my mother called me and said my baby brother was gone, I lost my faith, I cried, I screamed at God asking, ‘How could he let this happen?’ And then my cries turned to anger and anger turned to deep sorrow. And a pain I never felt when those monsters murdered my baby brother.”
RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, thanked the world for supporting the family while calling her son “a beautiful person.” She also deemed what happened to him “unimaginable” and urged the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“There should be no other child that should suffer the way my son and all the other parents here, have lost their children,” she said. “We need to get that bill passed, because if we don’t, that blood… that next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands.”
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