MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Hundreds of peaceful protesters, sparked by recently released CCTV footage of the brutal beating of Tire Nichols by police officers, demanded justice, accountability and police reform Saturday afternoon.
Many in the crowd expressed frustrations over a long history of police brutality against civilians, corruption and the need to disband several tactical units among the police force.
“Just growing up here, this is not really new to us. It’s new to us that we’re at this size, but this is a problem we’re tired of,” protester George Brooks, 44, said outside one of the city’s police stations where more than 200 people had gathered. “We are used to problems with the police in this city.”
Body camera footage of Nichols being savagely beaten by Memphis officers on Jan. 7 was released Friday night, sparking protests across the US. He died three days later.
Five police officers have been fired from the department and are charged with second-degree murder. City officials announced Saturday the disbandment of the year-old Scorpion unit, where those officers were stationed.
Memphis’ fear and anger spilled over into mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country on Saturday, including in Atlanta, Boston and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Memphis protest organizer Hunter Demster said city officials complied with demands from some protesters, including Saturday’s announcement that the Scorpion tactical unit, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, is being disbanded.
The high-profile anti-violence unit was launched in November 2021, as the city’s homicide rate soared and the community called for action.
“In the process of listening carefully to Tire Nichols’ family, community leaders and the uninvolved officers who did quality work on their behalf, it is in everyone’s best interest to permanently deactivate the SCORPION unit,” the department said in a statement. a statement Saturday.
Demster said the decision was great, but not good enough, and insisted that the department’s gang and crime task force should also be removed.
“Long-term goals, we will have sustained action by closing trade and roads until actual policy is passed,” he said. “If a group comes to the administrative center for an event, we shut it down. If the President of the United States drives down the street, that’s the street we’re going to close.”
He added that in addition to massive police reforms, he wants people to stop being killed at the hands of the police.
At the demonstration, many in attendance said they were fed up with an unjust 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 caught on camera beating Nichols.
“It made me angry to see Tire’s video, but this is normal (in Memphis) and I feel it’s time for a change. We’ve been trying to change it for years,” he said, adding that it starts with the police and ends with city hall.
“The corruption of the Memphis Police Department and the death of Tire Nichols, we are just completely tired. We need answers because after watching the video I have even more questions,” said 38-year-old Rachel Spriggs.