America facing its demons. The city of Memphis has released video of the beating of Tyre Nichols, a young African-American who died on January 10, three days after being beaten by five police officers, also black, who were charged with murder. Joe Biden said he was “outraged” and “deeply bruised” while Tyre Nichols’ mother called on protesters to “not burn down our city”. Protesters were heading calmly towards the police station on Friday evening.
The video is available on the City of Memphis Vimeo page. Due to the violence of the images, 20 Minutes chose not to publish them directly in this article. Two police officers are seen holding Tire Nichols to the ground while a third officer kicks him hard and another hits him with his truncheon. The young man shouts “mom”, “mom”. The police lift him up, and one of them punches him four times in the head.
“Reduced to mush”
“When my husband and I arrived at the hospital and I saw my son, he was already dead. They had reduced him to mush. He had bruises everywhere, his head was swollen like a watermelon,” RowVaughn Wells, Tyre Nichols’ mother, said in tears in an interview aired Friday by CNN. She told the press that she had not seen the images of the beating but that she had been told that they were “really horrible”.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has warned that the video showing the man being stopped for a simple traffic violation was “comparable, if not worse” to that showing the violent police arrest of Rodney King in 1991. The acquittal a year later of the four police officers involved sparked unprecedented riots in Los Angeles.
“Don’t Burn Our City”
The five officers, who were fired, are themselves African Americans. On Friday in the streets of downtown Memphis, police patrolled on horseback. The family of Tire Nichols itself has urged calm. “Please demonstrate, but demonstrate safely,” said her father-in-law, Rodney Wells. “
Elsewhere in the country too, the police were preparing for possible excesses. Two Joe Biden advisers have spoken to the mayors of 16 US cities about the protests. By early evening, protesters were beginning to gather in Washington, even before the video was released.
“In a nutshell, it’s absolutely appalling,” David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the arrest, said of the video. FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “horrified,” and Attorney General Merrick Garland said a federal investigation had been opened.