Protesters block traffic as they rally against the fatal police assault of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee on January 27, 2023.​

Protesters block traffic as they rally against the fatal police assault of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee on January 27, 2023.

(Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)

Protests Erupt Across US After Memphis Releases Video of Ex-Cops Beating Tyre Nichols

"These killer cops have got to go," chanted demonstrators in Chicago who carried signs that read, "Justice for Tyre Nichols" and "End police terror."

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People took to the streets across the United States Friday night after the city of Memphis, Tennessee released videos of a January 7 traffic stop that led to five police officers being fired and charged with the murder of 29-year-old Black motorist Tyre Nichols.


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."

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.


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."


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 Globereported 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."


"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."


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.


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."


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.

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.


"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."

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 Oregonianreported 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."


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."

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

"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."

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