Prior to the Memphis police release of the horrific video this evening showing the beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, activists took over and shut down a block along the busy K Street NW in downtown Washington. Nichols, who was stopped for a traffic violation by the special Scorpion unit, was brutally beaten by a gang of officers without any provocation on January 7th dying three days later due to the massive injuries he suffered.
As police stood by blocking the intersections and redirecting traffic, speakers called for an immediate cessation of police killings of black and brown people who overwhelmingly suffer at the hands of officers gone wild. They called for accountability in all cases involving the deaths of people in confrontations with the police in ending the ongoing epidemic of such killings.
Using the Franklin School’s second story brick wall as a backdrop, a video of Tyre skateboarding was shown interspersed with still images calling for reforms in the Memphis police department with lists of demands including the disbanding of the “Scorpion” unit responsible for his death. The protest was organized by Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a group calling for healing and reclaiming safety.
Organizer Meme Caylor opened her comments by singing the chant, “Mama, Mama can’t you see what the system do to me, ain’t no justice in this town. Papa, Papa can you see what the police do to me, they lock us up and shoot us down, there ain’t no justice in this town.” During her comments she observed that in 2022 there were only 22 days in which there were no police killings in America.
A press statement was read as follows, “We mourn with the family of Tyre Nichols and the Memphis community. We are in contact with our comrades in Memphis and will be following the family and local community on how to work together in solidarity. The demands of the family are to release the body cam footage, charge the officers, name all the officers and public personnel on the scene and release the officers’ files. The community of Memphis is asking that they pass transparent ordinances, end the use of pretextual traffic stops, end the use of unmarked cars…”
One speaker related that they would not demonstrate at Black Lives Matter Plaza because it “don’t keep black people safe, a façade, it’s a political performance” referring to it as a trap for an increased police presence to end any demonstrations and civil unrest. Early this evening it was eerily quiet with a heavy police presence in and around the area and no protesters present.
Only St John’s Church, the site of the police riot that broke out ahead of Trump’s walk from the White House to the church for his photo op, had a sign saying “Love thy neighbor.”
In furtherance of bringing an end to police killings of Black men, those who spoke urged everyone to get involved in bringing about change and being engaged in civil discourse and not to think that being on social media is the answer.
Photo: Phil Pasquini
(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)
Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.
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