Again, a text about the death of a young African American begins with the words “again”. The victim this time is Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx employee in Memphis, father of a young boy, avid skateboarder and loyal Starbucks customer, an American like many others.
Nichols died in hospital two weeks ago from injuries sustained by five police officers following a traffic stop 100 meters from his mother’s house, where he dined every day. Nichols had her name tattooed on his arm. What exactly happened has not yet been fully clarified.
Now the five police officers involved are accused of having caught Nichols after an attempt to escape and abused him for three minutes with kicks, police holds, tasers and pepper spray. They are charged with manslaughter and kidnapping, among other things. The behavior of two paramedics who subsequently treated Nichols is also being examined.
He died in hospital due to heavy bleeding
The man was then hospitalized for three days before he died, according to family lawyers, from severe bleeding. The police officers treated him like a “human piñata,” said one of the legal representatives. Piñatas are Latin American paper figures filled with candy. They are beaten with sticks by children until they burst open and release their contents.
Several videos of the police operation were published on Friday evening. In it, Nichols can be seen being pushed to the ground at the checkpoint, telling the police officers to stop several times. Finally he breaks free and flees on foot. An officer’s attempt to stop him with a stun gun fails, and Nichols is finally caught at a crossroads. Several officers hold him down while others brutally beat him with their fists and a baton. Nichols moans and wails, he calls loudly for his mother. Another shot shows two police officers holding up his torso while a third officer kicks him in the head. Then they drag the badly injured man to an emergency vehicle and lean his upper body against the side of the car.
The victims’ family, the police chief and the Tennessee state supervisory authority all agreed that the images were disturbing. Parallels were immediately drawn to Rodney King: he was stopped by police officers on his motorcycle in Los Angeles in 1991 and beaten bloody. The video of the outrage sparked months of unrest and violent riots.
Black Lives Matter is reluctant to respond
Authorities across the country have once again prepared for violent protests. In Memphis, for example, schools canceled all leisure activities on Friday afternoon so as not to endanger public safety. In Los Angeles, the security forces also feared violent demonstrations. The same is true in Atlanta, where a patrol car was set on fire last weekend after a police officer shot and killed a 26-year-old activist during a protest against the construction of a new police center.
However, demonstrations against Nichols’ death in Memphis have remained largely quiet so far, even after the video was released. In Memphis, protesters peacefully blocked a freeway in the evening. Black Lives Matter activists have also been reluctant to comment on the incident so far. The organization had organized protests for months after George Floyd’s death in 2020, which degenerated into violence in many cities. This time, however, not only is the victim an African American, all five police officers are, too. And they’re between 24 and 32 years old, so also in the same age group as Nichols.
Immediately, predominantly white users of social media accused Afro-American activists of being racist themselves by judging the violence of white police officers differently than that of black police officers. However, Afro-American civil rights activists such as Amber Sherman defended themselves against this simplistic depiction: The skin color of the police officers does not play a role; the current system of policing means that African Americans are checked and killed more often.
According to a survey by the United States, 79 people have been killed by police officers in the United States this year Washington Post. The number is more than 1,000 each year and counting, although there has been debate about how to stop excessive police brutality since the abuse of Rodney King 32 years ago.
US President Joe Biden said in the evening that he had seen the video and was shocked. He called Nichols’ family and expressed his condolences. The incident is a reminder of the deep fear, trauma, pain and exhaustion that many black Americans feel every day.