Wed | Nov 29, 2023

Mourners gather for Tyre Nichols’ funeral

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2023 | 3:56 PM
Vice President Kamala Harris sits with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells during the funeral service for Wells' son, Tyre Nichols, at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — Tyre Nichols' family and friends gathered Wednesday for a funeral that blended a celebration of his life with outrage over the brutal beating he endured at the hands of Memphis police and heated calls for police reform.

The Reverend Al Sharpton and Vice President Kamala Harris both delivered impassioned speeches calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a broad package of police reforms that includes a national registry for police officers disciplined for misconduct, a ban on no-knock warrants and other measures.

Harris said the beating of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, by five Black police officers was a violent act that went against the stated mission of police to ensure public safety.

“It was not in the interest of keeping the public safe, because one must ask, was not it in the interest of keeping the public safe that Tyre Nichols would be with us today? Was he not also entitled to the right to be safe? So when we talk about public safety, let us understand what it means in its truest form. Tyre Nichols should have been safe,” she said.

Sharpton said the officers who beat Nichols might have acted differently if there was real accountability for their actions. He also said he believes that if Nichols had been white, “you wouldn't have beat him like that.”

“We understand that there are concerns about public safety. We understand that there are needs that deal with crime,” Sharpton said.

“But you don't fight crime by becoming criminals yourself. You don't stand up to thugs in the street becoming thugs yourself. You don't fight gangs by becoming five armed men against an unarmed man. That ain't the police. That's punks,” he said, to rousing applause from the crowd.

Tiffany Rachal, the mother of Jalen Randle, who was fatally shot by a Houston police officer in 2022, sang a rendition of the classic gospel standard “Total Praise” to rousing applause from the congregation and Nichols' family.

“All of the mothers all over the world need to come together, need to come together to stop all of this,” Rachal said.

In the three weeks since Nichols' death, five police officers were fired and charged with murder. Their specialised unit was disbanded. Two more officers have been suspended. Two Memphis Fire Department emergency medical workers and a lieutenant were also fired. And more discipline could be coming.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.