Death of Tyre Nichols Calls for Aggressive Police Reform

Photo of protester outside of the Ohio State House in Columbus, OH.
Taken on Jan.29, 2023, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

Olivia Allery, news editor

The tragic death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols has caused major demands for police reform in many cities all across the country. On Jan. 7, while driving to his mother’s house, Tyre Nichols was stopped by police for reckless driving. According to the report made by Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, Nichols was aggressive and irate during the stop. They made claims of not being able to subdue Nichols with pepper spray or a taser, but were eventually able to handcuff him. 

According to NBC news, surveillance and body cam footage of the traffic stop, released on Jan. 27, revealed that Bean, Haley, Martin, Mills Jr. and Smith had brutally beaten Nichols during the traffic stop. Nichols was restrained by handcuffs and lying on the ground as the officers were standing over him and repeatedly punched, kicked and struck him with batons. Nichols ended up going to the hospital, complaining about his difficulty to breathe. He was in critical condition for three days until he eventually passed away from his injuries on Jan. 10. 

 All five of the officers identified in the footage have since been fired from the department, as well as two firefighters who cared for Nichols. The Shelby County Sheriff’s office has also charged all five officers with second degree murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression, as reported by Insider.

The release of the footage has sparked a big reaction across the U.S., as it displayed another merciless act of violence at the hands of the police. Many activist groups joined together across cities like Memphis, Chicago, and even here in Minneapolis to protest, demanding for change. The recent news of Tyre Nichols’ death has been compared to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin. 

On Sunday, Jan. 29, many gathered outside of the governor’s mansion in St. Paul to express grief and anger in light of Tyre Nichols’ death. According to the Sahan Journal, a rally was hosted with speeches from activists like John Thompson, Toshira Garraway, Marquis Armstrong and Brandyn Lee Tulloch, mostly discussing the lack of political action on behalf of the state despite a lot of promises made after the murder of George Floyd almost three years ago.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, Nichols’ funeral service was held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols’ family including his mother, RowVaughn Wells, and his stepfather, Rodney Wells, shared their memories and feelings of loss for Nichols. RowVaughn said at the funeral, “Tyre was a beautiful person and for this to happen to him is just unimaginable.” According to CNN, Reverend Al Sharpton and Vice President Kamala Harris were attending the funeral and gave a few words, expressing their condolences to the family. Both Reverend Sharpton and Vice President Harris expressed the urgency to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, an act which Harris said President Biden will sign into law, which would enforce higher standards of law enforcement accountability and reduce police misconduct.