At 29, Tyre D. Nichols was a bit old for skateboarding, his stepfather Rodney Wells said he told him. But you don’t stop doing something that you loved as much as Nichols.
And, added Wells at a Monday (Jan. 23) rally for Nichols, not something you were that good at.
Nichols died Jan. 10 three days after being beaten by Memphis police officers after a traffic stop near his Hickory Hill home three days earlier.
He began skateboarding when he was 6 years old, his mother, RowVaughn Wells, said.
So, the family deemed it appropriate for other passionate skateboarders to gather Monday outside Memphis City Hall, where the family viewed the footage of Nichols’ fateful encounter with Memphis police officers, five of whom have been fired.
A motley band of skateboarders showcased their tricks and twists. They all had one thing in common, besides the love of skateboarding.
“Of course, I have been watching the Tyre Nichols case, and I have been super distressed about what happened. I knew I had to be here today,” said Dr. Joy Brooke-Fairfield, a professor of media at Rhodes College.
“But not only to show my support for Tyre’s family. Protests have a kind of joyfulness about them. There is a sense of freedom and power about exercising our voices to stand up and say, ‘This is not right.’
“There is something really beautiful about us coming together as one community — skateboarders, people holding signs, and others who just needed to be here this morning. Despite the senseless tragedy of Tyre’s death, there is power in our voices. It is joyful.”
Here’s what others who answered the skateboarders’ call had to say.
“Tyre Nichols’ death is yet another instance of social injustice. Everyone should be concerned about this issue.” – Kirkwood Vangeli, an associate with the Memphis Medical District Collaborative
“The family … requested for skateboarders to show up Downtown at City Hall on the Plaza. This was a way to provide emotional support for the family. The call went out on Saturday. I believe more skateboarders would have come had there been more notice. I’m sure many more wanted to come out to show their support.” – Joshua Adams, organizer with Black Lives Matter
“Yet, another black man has died at the hands of police because of a traffic stop. We are tired of it. But today, we lay aside our anger and frustration to remember our brother, Tyre. He was a skateboarder, a Black skateboarder. We used to be rare, but more and more you see Black skateboarders.
“I love the idea of honoring Tyre in this way. It’s fun. It’s positive. It’s non-violent. And it’s an opportunity to take our minds off how scary it is to be Black and get stopped by the police. The fact that the officers were also Black demonstrates an extreme case of self-hate. It is the result of all this ‘alpha male’ talk.” – University of Memphis student “Rico”
“I love skateboarding, and my music is very important to me. I work in a warehouse. I wanted to come out and celebrate Tyre’s life and his love for skateboarding. What happened to him is too close to home. We get tired of hearing about Black men losing their lives over something minor when they come in contact with the police. It could have been any of us. That is why I am here. We must bring attention to this issue. It happens everywhere, all across the country.” – Kameron Blakely
“This family is in so much grief. I wanted to come out and show support. Calling for skateboarders to come out today on the Plaza is such a small thing to ask. We heard about the family’s request on Saturday. Tyre had so many friends. I met him at a skatepark a few weeks ago.
“When he ran from those police officers, he was running for his life. They may have pulled guns. I guess we won’t know why he ran until the video is released.
“My question is, if these officers are bold enough to do what they did to Tyre with their body cams on, what have they done when the cameras were not running.” – Luke Sexton
“I wanted to be here with the skateboarders because I am the mother of three sons, 19, 20, and 24. One of my sons is a skateboarder. He often goes to Toby Skatepark behind the school board,” said Michelle McKissack, a member of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools board, who also is considering a run for Memphis mayor in October.
“I feel very deeply for this family. Tyre should have felt safe, being stopped by five African-American police officers. That should have been calming for him. But that was not the case. I’m just wondering how something like this even happens. In a post-George Floyd world, how does this even happen?”
“As a member of the school board, it makes me want to go back and re-evaluate how we handle our students. Somehow, we need to find ways of supporting families.”