Skateboarders, activists, family gather to honor Tyre Nichols
"Find a good way to skate," Josh Adams, a Memphis skateboarder and activist, told the crowd of people gathered for a vigil for Tyre Nichols on Thursday night. "Get into some good trouble out here."
Nichols was also a skateboarder, though Adams never had a chance to meet him before Nichols died on Jan. 10 at the age of 29, three days after being stopped by Memphis Police in an incident that is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. It has led to the firing, arrests and indictments of five Memphis Police Officers as well as a national outcry.
READ MORE:Tense Memphis mourns Tyre Nichols, awaits release of video
Nichols has been remembered by friends as a deeply spiritual person and a free spirit. Family noted how he was loved by anyone he met. And how he loved skateboarding. According to his longtime friend Angelina Paxton, skate culture in California, where Nichols is from, is an escape from gang culture.
"When you're going to inner-city schools, you either choose to be part of the gang banging and all the crazy stuff, or you choose to be part of sports," Paxton told the Commercial Appeal in early January. "Or you can be an outcast and be part of the street team — that's what we call skaters and long-boarders and roller skaters."
Nichols lived in Memphis for a little under three years, moving to the city in February 2020 after friends convinced him to relocate and start fresh, but the skateboarding community still wanted to come out to honor him.
"I know that Tyre had just been in the city not a long time, so he really didn't time to establish an amount of friends and build a community that is here, and we just really wanted to show his mom that skaters do care about skaters," Luke Sexton, one of the organizers, said prior to the vigil.
Tobey Skatepark was lined with candles as skaters, activists and community members gathered Thursday evening. RowVaughn Wells, Nichols' mother, spoke to the crowd briefly, thanking everyone for coming and asking for people to protest in peace following the expected Friday evening release of the video showing the interaction between the officers and Nichols.
"When that tape comes out tomorrow, it's going to be horrific," Wells said. "I didn't see it, but from what I hear, it's going to be horrific. But I want each and every one of you to protest in peace. I don't want the burning of our city, tearing up the streets. Cause that's not what my son stood for. And if you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully."
Shelby County District Attorney General Steve Mulroy said Thursday afternoon that it is his understanding that the video will be a combination of body camera video and SkyCop video. Some of the video will be redacted, Mulroy said. The video is, by all accounts, incredibly difficult to watch, with Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch, calling it "absolutely appalling" and civil rights attorney and one of the Nichols' family attorneys Ben Crump comparing it to the 1991 beating of Rodney King by police in Los Angeles.
Crump said Monday after seeing the video that the last words on the video were of Nichols, only 80-100 yards from his house, calling out three times for his mom.
"Don't let your children watch the video," family members and activists said Thursday night.
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Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis said Wednesday night that more officers are under investigation in addition to the five charged, though she didn't specify how many or the nature of the policy violations. In addition, a Memphis Fire Department spokeswoman said Monday that two Memphis Firefighters involved in the initial care of Nichols were "relieved of duty" pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
"We're not going to take it no more," Amber Sherman, a local activist, said at the vigil. "We want clear answers from every person who was on the scene that violently killed Tyre. Everyone who had a hand, we need every name released. Don't just quietly fire firefighters, don't just quietly fire paramedics, EMTs, release their names. Release the files. All of them got to come out."
Sherman also called for the disbandment of the MPD unit called SCORPION, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, that some of the officers have been identified as belonging to.
The unit focuses on preventing auto theft and gang-related violence and was structured to have some coordination with the Multi-Agency Gang Unit. Davis has also announced an independent review of all of the departments specialized units.
"We're not investigating nothing, we're disbanding it," Sherman said. "We're disbanding the OCU, we're disbanding the MCU, y'all are murdering people. Y'all are pulling up on people buying pizzas with guns to their heads, trying to go home. Tyre was just trying to go home. That man was just trying to go home, he just wanted to get food for himself. We can't even feed ourselves and y'all murdering us. We're not doing it no more."
In addition to advocating for a city ordinance set to be introduced by Councilman JB Smiley in the Memphis City Council's Feb. 7 meeting that would require Memphis Police officers to report consistent and detailed reports on traffic stops, along with use-of-force complaints, Sherman asked that people show up in the coming days.
"Your going to see us putting out calls to action, show up," Sherman said. "Your going to see us saying 'pull up for this family, support this family,' show up. Y'all are real deep at this skate park, I need it deeper. I need thousands. We're going to be in the streets for Tyre and we're not letting up."
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Skateboarders, activists, family gather to honor Tyre Nichols