Protests erupt across the U.S. after Memphis releases video of former cops beating Tyre Nichols
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - Demonstrators protest the death of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The Memphis-based Commercial Appeal reported that protesters advocating for police reform shut down the Interstate 55 bridge that connects Tennessee and Arkansas:
As of 8:30 pm, more than 100 people remained on the Harahan Bridge with protest leaders saying they wanted to talk with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis before disbanding. MPD officers closed off roads leading to the bridge―and several others downtown―but had not directly confronted protesters. Protesters started moving off of the bridge around 9:00 pm. As they marched eastbound on E.H. Crump Boulevard towards police, they locked arms and chanted "we ready, we ready, we ready for y'all." Protestors then turned north, toward central downtown. As they passed by residences, some people came out on their balconies to cheer.

Surrounded by protestors on I-55, NBC News' Priscilla Thompson said that "they are chanting, they are calling the name of Tyre Nichols. They are calling for change."

\u201c"They are chanting, they are calling the name of Tyre Nichols."\n\n@PriscillaWT reports from protests on a Memphis highway after the release of a video showing the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols.\u201d
— NBC News (@NBC News) 1674868123

Demonstrators and the Nichols family have called for disbanding the MPD Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods (SCORPION) team that launched in 2021 and was involved in the traffic stop. The Memphis mayor said Friday afternoon that the unit has been inactive since Nichols' January 10 death.

The footage shows that after police brutally beat Nichols—pushing him to the ground; using pepper spray; punching and kicking him; and striking him with a baton—it took 22 minutes from when officers said he was in custody for an ambulance to arrive and take him to the hospital, where he later died from cardiac arrest and kidney failure.

\u201c#Breaking LIVE: Memphis protesters block traffic on Old Bridge on I-55 call for justice for Tyre Nichols and out about #PoliceBrutality. "Please don't shoot me dead. I got my hands above my head." \n\nFull Video:\n\n#JusticeforTyreNichols #TyreNichols\u201d
— Status Coup News (@Status Coup News) 1674870579


In Georgia, though Republican Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this week signed an executive order enabling him to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops "as necessary" following protests in Atlanta over law enforcement killing 26-year-old forest defender Manuel "Tortuguita" Teran, those who gathered after the video release Friday night "expressed outrage but did so peacefully."

That's according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which detailed that "a small but spirited crowd" of roughly 50 people formed in downtown Atlanta.

"We want to make one thing very clear, no executive order and no National Guard is going to stop the people for fighting for justice," Zara Azad said at the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive. "We do not fear them because we are for justice."

\u201c#Memphis chief, Davis, also led Atlanta\u2019s REDDOG unit, which was disbanded after being sued for excessive force.\u201d
— Atlanta Community Press Collective (@Atlanta Community Press Collective) 1674877239


Just before the footage was released Friday, a vigil was held at "The Embrace" statue installed on Boston Common to honor Rev. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.

The Boston Globe reported that Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of King Boston, which installed the monument, highlighted that the civil rights icon was assassinated while visiting Memphis in 1968 to advocate for sanitation workers whose slogan was "Am I a man?"

"Today we are thinking about Memphis and Brother Tyre, and the slogan of today is still, 'Am I a man?'" Jeffries said. "Seeing the humanity in each of us is the cornerstone of true change. Experiencing another heinous display reminds us that no family should feel this pain, ever. And there's still work to do."

"This is a problem that confronts us all," he added. "This is a problem that we need to defeat together, as a family, as a community."

\u201c\u201cThey executed him!\u201d\n\nProtests erupt across the country in wake of video showing brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols in TN. Protesters in Boston last night called for justice. \n\nDetails on another demonstration today in Boston on @boston25 from 8-10 AM\u201d
— Julianne Lima (@Julianne Lima) 1674912243


"From Memphis to Chicago, these killer cops have got to go," chanted about a dozen people who gathered near a police precinct in the Illinois city despite freezing temperatures, according to USA TODAY. Their signs read, "Justice for Tyre Nichols" and "End police terror."

Kamran Sidiqi, a 27-year-old who helped organize the protest—one of the multiple peaceful gatherings held throughout the city—told the newspaper that "it's tough to imagine what justice is here because Tyre is never coming back."

"That's someone's son, someone's friend lost forever. That's a human being's life that is gone," he said. "But a modicum of justice would be putting these killer cops in jail. A modicum of justice would be building a whole new system so that this can't happen again."

\u201cAna Santoyo, 33, a Chicago native running for alderperson, said the killing is another reminder that police brutality is pervasive in the U.S. \u201cIt\u2019s not just bad apples. It\u2019s the whole bunch,\u201d she said.\n\n\u201d
— Ana Santoyo for Alderperson (@Ana Santoyo for Alderperson) 1674875708


In Texas, The Dallas Morning News reported that Dominique Alexander, founder of the Next Generation Action Network, called Nichols' death a "total disregard for life, for humanity."

"The culture of policing is what is allowing these officers to feel like they can take our lives," Alexander said. "We want peace and calm in our communities, and we will do whatever is necessary to demand justice so our children don't have to deal with the same bullcrap we are dealing with now."

Around two dozen people who came together outside the Dallas Police Department headquarters Friday night shouted, "No justice, no peace" and "No good cops in a racist system," and held signs that said, "Stop the war on Black America" and "Justice for Tyre Nichols," according to the newspaper.

\u201cAt a Friday night protest at the Dallas Police Department headquarters, community organizer Shenita Cleveland recounted the events shown in the recently released body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' fatal beating by Memphis police officers.\n\nRead more here:\u201d
— Dallas Morning News (@Dallas Morning News) 1674872544


The Detroit branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) organized a Friday rally featuring speeches and a moment of silence. Michiganders held signs that declared, "Unions against police murder" and "Systems of racist police, violence must end."

"I'd like to see a civilian oversight board in every city, community control of the police department," 30-year-old Cameron Harrison, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 876 who attended the rally, told the Detroit Free Press.

"I'd like to see funding go away from weapons and [go to] jobs, housing, and water," said Harrison, adding that he does not need to watch the footage released from Memphis to know "what the police are capable of."

\u201c\u201cWe\u2019re tired, and we are sick and tired of being sick and tired,\u201d said Detroit activist Sammie Lewis, referencing a quote by civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer.\u201d
— Ron Fournier (@Ron Fournier) 1674902324


A demonstration outside the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headquarters became "tense" late Friday after a "protest march grew out of a candlelight vigil for Nichols and Keenan Anderson, who died this month after L.A. police pinned him to the ground and discharged a Taser on him at least six times in 42 seconds," according to the Los Angeles Times.

\u201cRodney King's daughter spoke on the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, drawing parallels to the brutality her father suffered at the hands of Los Angeles police officers more than 30 years ago.\n\u201d
— NBCBLK (@NBCBLK) 1674912610

The videos of Memphis police brutalizing Nichols have provoked comparisons to the 1991 footage of LAPD officers brutally beating Rodney King—who survived the assault but died in 2012.

"My dad didn't die that night, but a big part of him did that we never got back," Lora Dene King, who was seven years old when her father was abused by police, told NBC News this week. She said that Nichols' death was "very triggering" for her and part of a "repetitive pattern" that includes her father, Eric Garner, and George Floyd.

"The whole situation is sickening to me, there is no reason he shouldn't be alive," she said of Nichols. "It'll just be another hashtag and we'll go on with our lives, and then it'll happen again."


In New York City, "protests were mostly peaceful, but emotions ran high," reported a local ABC affiliate, noting three arrests.

According to the outlet:

Demonstrators held up signs, chanting: "What's his name? Tyre! Say his name. Tyre!" They demonstrated at Grand Central Terminal and Union Square, and crisscrossed the city, eventually bringing the Crossroads of the World to a screeching halt.

"When is this gonna end?" Bronx resident Chris Campbell said of police killings during a street interview with a CBS reporter.

\u201cHundreds of New Yorkers protested Friday after the Tyre Nichols video was released. People told us they felt angry, but also dejected.\n @CBSNewYork \n\n\u201d
— Ali Bauman (@Ali Bauman) 1674881988


"It's absolutely disgusting," PSL organizer Talia Gile said of the footage during a Friday speech in Philadelphia's Center City. "It shows the complete and utter disregard for human life. It shows the fact that police, no matter what their race is, are going to terrorize people because that's what the system is meant to do. It's meant to abuse its power against citizens."

\u201cMore people have joined the rally. The demonstrators have now taken to 15th Street to march\u201d
— Matt Petrillo (@Matt Petrillo) 1674864793

Five former MPD cops, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, and Desmond Mills Jr.—who are all Black—were charged with second-degree murder and other crimes related to Nichols' death on Thursday.

After the videos were released Friday, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. announced that two deputies "who appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols" have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation.


The Oregonian reported that in Portland on Friday night, "People kept mostly to sidewalks but blocked the Burnside Bridge for a few minutes as they stood to honor Nichol."

"The marchers chanted 'Whose lives? Black lives!' 'No justice, no peace,' and 'Say his name—Tyre Nichols!'" the newspaper added. "Some people knocked down road barriers but there were none of the clashes with police that had marked many of the nights of unrest in Portland after the 2020 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis."

\u201cThe group dispersed where they began at Burnside Skatepark. And while the demonstrators have gone home, their messages of solidarity remain\u201d
— Joelle Jones (@Joelle Jones) 1674881040


Protests were held in the nation's capital Friday night on K Street Northwest and at Lafayette Square.

"It should not take the releasing of body cam footage of a Black man being murdered by police for people to jump to action, and for those who feel moved by this, and you should, ‘cause it could be any one of us standing out here today," said one speaker at the former event. "We urge you to not only protest, to not only engage on social media, to not only be flabbergasted and distraught and angry, but to take action."

\u201cA justice for Tyre Nichols rally is underway at Lafayette Square in DC following the release of bodycam video footage.\n\nWATCH LIVE HERE:\u201d
— 7News DC (@7News DC) 1674868085

Additional protests were planned for the weekend. The group ColorOfChange shared resources for demonstrators on Twitter:

\u201cIf you\u2019re protesting in Atlanta or Memphis, stay safe using these resources:\n\n\u2705 Direct action training w/ @BlkDirectAction:\n\u2705 @EqualityLabs' digital protest resilience guide:\n\u2705 Collective action toolkit:\u201d
— ColorOfChange (@ColorOfChange) 1674865865

"Tyre Nichols was a father to a 4-year-old boy, a son, a skateboarder, a beloved member of his community. And he was murdered after complying while the cameras were rolling," ColorOfChange president Rashad Robinson said in a series of tweets Friday. "Cosmetic 'solutions' like body cameras will not prevent the police from taking Black lives, nor will hiring Black police officers without reforming the overall racist, violent system."

"Now," he argued, "we must make sure the Memphis City Council takes action to end the practice of pretextual stops, hold officers accountable, eliminate the [Organized Crime Unit] and the SCORPION task force that killed Tyre, and fund a civilian response unit."