International/U.S. News Editor
Protesters have taken to the streets once gain in response to the released surveillance footage of five police officers restraining and beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee.
The footage showed Nichols, a black man, being held down and beaten with batons, punching, and kicking by the five officers, who are also black, after a traffic stop. He was left on the ground before he was taken to a hospital where he passed away three days later. The officers have all been fired and are now being faced with charges of second-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. Protests started across the country, which were seen as mostly peaceful. Protesters in Memphis temporarily shut down the I-55 bridge and traffic was stopped in Boston. New York’s Grand Central Station had been briefly closed in anticipation of the protests, while Georgia governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency and the National Guard was called to Atlanta. Other peaceful protests in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle called for an end to abuse, and vigils were held in the Memphis area. “All of these officers failed their oath,” said Nichols’ family attorney Ben Crump. “Was anybody trying to protect and serve Tyre Nichols?”
The Memphis Police Department is now in the process of reforming and restructuring. The five officers had been a part of the department’s SCORPION unit (Street Crime Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods), launched in 2021, which was created to assign more officers to areas with an increase in crime. The department announced that it would be permanently disbanding the unit in response to the officers’ actions. Other Memphis agencies are also facing scrutiny and backlash. Two fire department employees who helped in Nichols’ immediate care are under investigation as well as two deputies from the sheriff’s office and have also been relieved of their duties.
The officers’ actions have also reinvigorated the discussion of police reform in both Tennessee and the United States. Democratic state lawmakers announced that they will be introducing new police reform bills that would focus on hiring, training, disciplinary actions, and mental health services for officers. While the state’s 24 Democratic representatives are outnumbered by the 99 Republican representatives, the party hopes that this issue is seen as bipartisan. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and head of the Senate Judiciary committee, has even called on Congress to attempt to revisit national police reform legislation to appeal to the country as a whole.
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