Alexis Guilleux with AFP
07:08, February 02, 2023modified to
09:45, February 02, 2023
“A beautiful soul” whose life was taken too soon by “a violent act” of the police: at the funeral of Tire Nichols, a young African-American whose fatal beating by black agents shocked the United States, the speakers, including Vice President Kamala Harris, protested against police violence on Wednesday. After having hugged the mother of Tyre Nichols for a long time in the church of Memphis where this tribute was organized, Kamala Harris had harsh words towards the police who beat him up while he shouted to have nothing done and called for help.
“Didn’t he have the right to be safe?” Asked the vice-president. “Here is a family who lost their son and brother after an act of violence” perpetrated by “people responsible for protecting them”, she hammered. The Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights figure who gave the funeral oration at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, said he was particularly affected by the fact that the five police officers were themselves black.
“In the city where (Martin Luther) King lost his life (…), you beat a brother to death,” he said. “There is nothing more insulting, to us who fought to open the doors, that you would come in through those doors and act like the people we had to fight so that you could come through those doors,” he said. he added, as the crowd rose to a standing ovation.
“A good person”
Tire Nichols, 29, was arrested on January 7 by agents from a special unit in Memphis, in the southern United States, for a traffic violation according to the police. But beaten relentlessly, so much so that he had become unrecognizable according to his family, he died three days later in hospital. The five police officers involved were fired and charged with murder.
The unbearable images of the arrest were broadcast, without cuts, by the largest channels in the country, raising fears of a social conflagration to the authorities. During the service on Wednesday, pictures taken by Tire Nichols, who had a site dedicated to photography, and videos of him skateboarding, another of his passions, were projected.
The young man was “a good person, a beautiful soul”, said Reverend J. Lawrence Turner. For a few harrowing minutes, a relative of Tire Nichols recited a poem she wrote around the words addressed by Mr Nichols to the police who beat him: “I’m just trying to get home”.
“This is just the beginning”
A strong symbol, a brother of George Floyd, a black man in his forties whose death in 2020 under the knee of a white police officer had triggered massive anti-racist demonstrations, was present at the funeral. In tears, RowVaughn Wells, the mother of Tyre Nichols, called to applause for Congress to pass a police reform bill bearing the name of George Floyd, stalled for now. “Because if we don’t, that blood, the next child that dies, they’ll have that blood on their hands,” she pleaded.
“This is just the beginning,” promised Tyre Nichols’ father-in-law, Rodney Wells. “We look forward to justice for all families (…), not just ours.” A sign of the attention given by the White House to this affair, President Joe Biden himself spoke last week with the parents of Tire Nichols.
RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells were also invited by the parliamentary group bringing together African-American elected officials to attend Mr. Biden’s State of the Union speech on February 7 in Congress in Washington. President Biden plans to receive members of this parliamentary group at the White House on Thursday to “discuss legislation on police reform and other common priorities”, according to a spokeswoman.
On Wednesday, US police found themselves again accused of excessive use of force after the death in California of an African-American with both legs amputated, killed by officers during an intervention for a stabbing.
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