US police violence: Responsible special unit dissolved
The death of a 29-year-old black man after a brutal police operation in the United States sparks horror. Protests initially remain peaceful, the first consequences have now taken place.
Memphis police have disbanded the task force responsible for the violent death of black man Tire Nichols. After consulting with Nichols’ family, other members of the community and officials from the team, the decision was made to disband the controversial unit, the Memphis, Tennessee police said yesterday (local time).
All five police officers charged with the murder of Tire Nichols were part of the unit, according to CNN, citing the police department. The special unit was only founded in 2021 to better respond to organized crime and drug crime, the Memphis police said at the time on ABC.
Death in a traffic stop
Nichols was brutally beaten by police during a traffic stop on January 7th. He succumbed to his injuries in hospital three days later. After his death, video footage of the brutal police operation was released. The pictures – taken by so-called body cameras of the officers involved – show the police officers repeatedly hitting Nichols.
He calls for help several times – to no avail. The African American died of his injuries three days after the operation. US President Joe Biden was shocked by the pictures. Protests broke out in several places.
The videos show Nichols being pulled over in his car by police. The officers – also black – pull him out of the car and push him down. Again and again they yell at him to go down – and he’s already lying there. Nichols repeatedly asks the cops to stop. He’s on his way home. “I haven’t done anything.” Eventually he breaks free and tries to flee on foot. An officer’s attempt to stop him with a stun gun fails.
Nichols is then caught by officers at another crossroads. From three different perspectives – also recorded by a permanently installed camera on a street lamp – you can see what is happening next. Several officers hold Nichols while other officers brutally beat him with their fists and a baton. In a video, it looks like a police officer is spraying something in his face. Nichols moans and wails. He calls out loud for his mother several times.
Nichols died in hospital three days later
Another shot shows two officers holding up Nichols’ torso while a third officer kicks him in the head. The emergency services then drag the seriously injured man to an emergency vehicle and lean his upper body against the side of the car. Nichols died of his injuries in hospital three days later. Five police officers involved have since been released from service and arrested. They should have to answer in court.
The video caused outrage across the United States and beyond. Demonstrators peacefully blocked a freeway that runs through Memphis in the evening. Many held signs that read “Justice for Tyre.” According to media reports, three people were arrested during protests in New York. Biden said in the evening that he saw the video and was shocked. The incident reminded him of the deep fear, trauma, pain and exhaustion that many black Americans feel every day.
Five police officers have since been charged with murder and other offences. After the video was released, the county sheriff announced that two other officers who were also at the scene had been suspended from duty. An internal investigation is ongoing. The broadcaster CNN reported that two firefighters were also being investigated.
Lawyers for the family denounce racist behavior
Deadly police violence with predominantly black victims occurs again and again in the USA. The family’s lawyers denounced racist practices. The five accused ex-police officers are also black. A Black Lives Matter executive said anyone working in a system that uses state-sanctioned violence is complicit in perpetuating white supremacy.
In the past, such brutal police operations have repeatedly triggered violent protests. The death of the African American George Floyd in May 2020 led to nationwide demonstrations and sometimes violent riots. Nichols’ case is also often compared to the attack on Rodney King. King was brutally beaten by police in Los Angeles in 1991. He survived badly injured.