WASHINGTON – The release of police body camera footage in the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols sparked protests in cities around the country, including Washington, Friday evening.
A crowd of roughly one hundred people gathered across the street from the White House in Lafayette Square chanting “no justice, no peace,” and raising signs that said “end police terror.”
The protest organized by the Party of Socialism and Liberation comes less than three weeks after Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee following a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
“We have been killed like this forever. It’s just now it’s being recorded so other people are seeing it,” said Nadine Seiler, of Waldorf, Maryland. “You come out for the community, but for the wrong reasons. It’s very frustrating.”
Video from the incident released Friday appeared to show officers kicking and punching Nichols as he struggles on the ground, and one officer can be heard screaming, “I’m going to baton the f*** out of you.” After Nichols is subdued, it appears police largely ignore him as it takes over 20 minutes for a medical stretcher to arrive on scene.
Nichols died in the hospital three days later. The Shelby County medical examiner’s office hasn’t released an official cause of death.
As Nichols’ family grieves, so does protest attendee Karen Hylton. Hylton is the mother of Karon Hylton-Brown, who died in 2020 after he crashed his scooter during a police chase in Washington.
“I feel Ms. Nichols’ pain,” Hylton told the Medill News Service. “Tyre deserved to be here. Karon deserved to be here. That was my baby. That was my life.”
The officers that chased Hylton-Brown were found guilty on all charges last December. Officer Terrance Sutton was convicted of second-degree murder.
After Nichols’ killing, five officers from the Memphis Police Department were fired on Jan. 20. They are charged with second-degree murder, and six other felony counts, for their roles in the deadly beating.
Seiler, who held a sign that said “Blue Murders Matter,” said she considers it a “slam dunk” to convict the officers in Nichols’ case. However, she said more must be done in the battle for racial justice.
“If we can get this response across the board whenever this egregious behavior happens, then that will be change for me,” Seiler said. “We need to get rid of qualified immunity. And when police officers get fired, they shouldn’t be able to go to the neighboring community and get rehired.
While all the charged officers are Black, Delaney Leonard, a Howard University student who spoke at Friday’s protest, said their race “doesn’t absolve them of the criticism they would have received if they had been white police officers.”
“It doesn’t matter because they operate with the intent to uphold white supremacy in a racist system,” Leonard said.
D.C. police activated all sworn officers Friday night in anticipation of protests. Barriers were also erected around the U.S. Capitol.