VICE PRESIDENT Kamala Harris speaks at Tyre Nichols’ funeral in Memphis, Tennessee.
Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old man whose brutal murder by five Memphis police officers sparked outrage across America, was laid to rest February 1 during an emotional funeral where Vice President Kamala Harris joined leaders in calling for justice and the passage of the stalled George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.
Vice President Harris spoke at the service inside Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in the city at the urging of the Reverend Al Sharpton, who delivered a fiery eulogy.
“You don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself,” Reverend Sharpton said of the officers charged in Nichols’ death. “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.”
Vice President Harris acknowledged the “courage and strength”” of Tyre Nichols’ family.
“This is a family that lost their son and their brother through an act of violence at the hands and the feet of people who had been charged with keeping them safe,” Vice President Harris said. “And when I think about the courage and the strength of this family, I think it demands that we speak truth, and with this, I will say this violent act was not in pursuit of public safety.
“It was not in the interest of keeping the public safe,” she continued. -“Tyre Nichols should have been safe.”
Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor; Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd; and filmmaker Spike Lee were also in attendance at the service, which was delayed by an ice storm and lasted more than two hours.
Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump spoke as well as Texas Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, along with several Black ministers.
On the eve of Nichols’ funeral, his older brother, Jamal Dupree, shared the overwhelming regret that he has was not present to save his brother’s life.
“I’ve been fighting my whole life, and the one fight I needed to be here for, I wasn’t here,” Dupree said Tuesday evening at the historic Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis as he gathered with other family members and the Reverend Al Sharpton to share the latest developments in the case.
Dupree recalled that his brother was anything but violent.
“My brother was the most peaceful person I’ve ever met in life,” he said. “If my brother was here today and he had to say something, he’d tell us to do this peacefully.”
The Memphis Fire Department has also fired three employees for failing to provide Nichols with adequate medical aid after arriving at the scene. On Monday, authorities announced that two additional officers have also been relieved of their duties.
Nichols’ parents are set to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week after being invited by the Congressional Black Caucus, who will meet with the president to push for police reform.
Plans are underway for Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford to meet with President Biden about police reform, but a date has not yet been set.
At the State of the Union Address, Horsford said he wants President Biden to address police reform -“to center this issue and the pain that families are experiencing, not the least of which is the Nichols family, but people who experience this pain virtually every single day somewhere in America.”
Negotiations on police reform broke down in 2021 after months of bipartisan deliberations between then-Congressman Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Senators Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C.
That legislation, which passed in the House in March 2021, but faced steep Republican opposition in the Senate, sought to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in certain cases, mandate data collection on police encounters and alter qualified immunity for law enforcement.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, told ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulous that he wants Senators Booker and Scott to “revive that effort.”
Nichols was beaten for three minutes after a traffic stop and foot chase on Jan. 7, according to body-worn and utility pole camera footage released by the Memphis Police Department. A police camera on a street pole captured the officers pepper-spraying, kicking, punching, and hitting Nichols while he was restrained, bashing him with a baton, and shooting him with a Taser. The video also shows Nichols not fighting back, but calling for his mother. Twenty-four minutes went by before Nichols was given medical assistance.
Nichols died of his injuries three days later in a hospital, having suffered “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to an autopsy commissioned by his family.
The five police officers, who are all Black, are charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death, among other related charges, and have been released on bail ranging from $250,000 to $350,000.
A sixth officer, who is white, was named in the case, but Nichols’ family attorneys expressed disappointment with the Memphis Police Department that the officer had not been fired or charged as were the five Black officers.
“We have asked from the beginning that the Memphis Police Department be transparent with the family and the community; this news seems to indicate that they haven’t risen to the occasion,” civil rights and personal injury Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a joint statement Monday.
The Memphis Fire Department also fired three employees for failing to provide Nichols with adequate medical aid after arriving at the scene. Authorities announced that two additional officers have also been relieved of their duties.
Nichols’ death has sparked mostly peaceful protests around the country and renewed discussions around federal legislation to reform policing, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and whether there is a possibility for systemic change. That bill failed to pass in the Senate in 2021.