Movement for Black Lives Statement on Police Murder of Tyre Nichols
As the Memphis Police Department prepares to release footage of the five Memphis police officers brutally beating Tyre Nichols, a beating that resulted in his death, the Movement for Black Lives issued the following statement:
On January 7, 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, a passionate skateboarder and amateur photographer, was hospitalized and died after being brutally beaten by five Memphis police officers, who all happened to be Black.
In the last two weeks alone, M4BL has released two responses to police murders of Black people during traffic stops—an indictment of America’s violent, anti-Black and deadly carceral system, which includes police, police unions, prisons, and more. Earlier this month, Los Angeles Police tased father and English teacher Keenan Anderson to death. We know the only way to prevent deaths such as Mr. Anderson’s and Mr. Nichol’s is to take power and funding away from police and to reduce contact between Black communities and the police significantly.
In Tyre’s case, the police officers tased, pepper-sprayed, restrained, and violently beat him for three long minutes. This type of violence illustrates how irredeemable an institution policing is, primarily because it is rooted in upholding white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence, no matter the racial or gendered makeup of the officer. Despite attempted reforms—like these in Memphis—police forces cannot diversify or restructure their way into becoming just institutions, and no reform will end the intentional and incessant terrorizing of Black communities.
The five police officers have been fired from the Memphis police force and indicted on charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. While notably more aggressive than other police murders, it is insufficient and won’t bring Tyre back or prevent future police murders.
We’ll continue to say what Black organizers have said for generations. To achieve true justice for Tyre Nichols, Keenan Anderson, and the untold number of Black people whose lives have been stolen by police, we need to defund the police and conduct an overhaul of public safety in the U.S. That overhaul starts with passing legislation inspired by the BREATHE Act—a comprehensive approach to public safety that divests from brutal and discriminatory policing and invests in community-based alternatives.
Together with the official Black Lives Matter Memphis chapter in support of their coalition partners, Decarcerate Memphis, we demand that the city of Memphis:
- Pass the Data Transparency ordinance;
- End the use of pretextual traffic stops, unmarked cars, and plainclothes officers;
- Dissolves the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods (SCORPION) unit, Organized Crime Unit (OCU), and Multi agency Gang Unit (MGU);
- And ends the use of task forces and removes police from traffic enforcement entirely;
We grieve with Tyre’s family, friends, and the Memphis community. Had those officers not pulled Tyre over, he would be here right now with his four-year-old son, taking photos of sunsets and skateboarding, his passion since he was a child. Yet, even as we try to grieve, support Tyre’s family, and take to the streets to demand justice, accountability, and a new vision of public safety, we know the police are ramping up to criminalize our actions—meeting our calls for justice and accountability with more state violence and suppression.
You can show support by donating to the official Black Lives Matter Memphis chapter’s bail fund.
It’s up to us to tear down violent, anti-Black systems of oppression and invest in our people. These step-by-step guides, created by the Movement for Black Lives, have the tools to craft community safety policies at the state and local levels. Together, we can keep our communities safe and demand progressive action to end police violence.”
The Movement for Black Lives is a national network of more than 150 leaders and organizations creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize and take action. M4BL includes activists, organizers, academics, lawyers, educators, health workers, artists and more, all unified in a radical vision for Black liberation and working for equity, justice and healing.