Protests and calls for police reform flood Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Hundreds of peaceful protesters, fueled by recently released body camera footage showing the brutal beating of Tire Nichols by police officers, demanded justice, accountability and police reform on Saturday afternoon.

Many in the crowd expressed frustration with a long history of police violence against citizens, corruption and the need to disband several tactical units under the police department.

“Just growing up here isn’t really new to us. It’s new for us to be on this scale, but it’s a problem we’ve had enough of seeing,’ protester George Brooks, 44, said outside one of the city’s police stations where more than 200 people had gathered. “We are used to having problems with the police in this town.”

Body camera footage of Nichols being savagely beaten by Memphis officers on Jan. 7 emerged Friday night, sparking protests across the United States. He died three days later.

Five officers have been fired from the department and face second-degree murder charges. City officials on Saturday announced the disbanding of the year-old Scorpion Unit where those officers were based.

Memphis’ angst and anger were expressed in mostly peaceful protests across the country on Saturday, including in Atlanta, Boston and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Memphis protest organizer Hunter Demster said city officials have responded to some protesters’ demands, such as Saturday’s announcement to disband the Scorpion Tactical Unit, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore. Peace in Our Neighborhoods.

The high-level anti-violence unit was launched in November 2021 when the city’s murder rate was skyrocketing and the community called for action.

“In the process of listening carefully to Tire Nichols’ family, community leaders and uninvolved officers who have done a quality job in their mission, it is in everyone’s interest to permanently deactivate the SCORPION unit.” , the department said in a statement on Saturday.

Demster said the decision was great, but not good enough, insisting the department’s gang and crime task force also needed to be cut.

“Long term goals, we are going to have sustained action closing trade and roads until the actual policy is passed,” he said. “If a group comes to the civic center for a function, we will close it. If the President of the United States is driving down the street, that’s the street we’re going to shut down.

He added that he wanted people to stop being killed by the police in addition to massive police reform.

At the protest, many attendees said they were fed up with an unfair and aggressive police force with a long local history of corruption.

For Memphis protester Joshua Lewis, 18, he said he was not surprised by the actions of the officers who were filmed beating Nichols.

“It pissed me off to see Tyr’s video but it’s normal (in Memphis) and I feel like it’s time for a change. We have been trying to change it for years,” he said, adding that it starts with the police and ends with the town hall.

“The corruption of the Memphis police and the death of Tire Nichols, we are just tired. We need answers because after watching the video I have more questions,” said protester Rachel Spriggs, 38.

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