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Struggling to find any ‘rays of sunshine in all of this’

With Tyre D. Nichols in mind as the wheels of justice grind, many are struggling to find any “rays of sunshine in all of this.”

Five former Memphis Police Department officers are now charged with beating him to death, there was some yet unexplained “delay” in calling for an ambulance, others are being investigated, and Memphis Fire Department personnel have been suspended pending investigation.

Now the wait is down to hours for the public release of video footage to fill in details of what happened to Nichols from beginning to end on the evening of Jan. 7, three days before he succumbed to – by all accounts – a savage beating.

That backdrop prompts these thoughts and reflections:

The Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, founder of #UPTheVote901:

“Elections have consequences, and I am glad we have Steve Mulroy in the District Attorney’s office, and not Amy Weirich. We have someone responsive and sincere who wants to hear community leaders and feel the pulse of the city.

“But I would love to know who set bail for those officers who have been indicted on murder charges. They bonded right out and were released in a few hours.

“However, indictment is a small step in the right direction, a point of genesis.… Officials moved quickly as they should have … but we don’t see that same expediency when white officers are involved in these situations….

“But how did we get to this place? This is obviously not their first time acting in that manner. They have had some practice.…

“How did five African-American officers beat Tyre Nichols to death? “It’s because race is irrelevant. Blue lives matter. The color is blue…. Policing is a system rooted in white supremacy. So race and ethnicity become non-factors.

“I struggle, trying to find rays of sunshine in all of this.…”

Shelby County District Atty. Gen. Steve Mulroy, TBI Director David Rausch (left) and others exit the stage after the press conference announcing charges against five former Memphis Police Department officers. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

Shelby County Commissioner Britney Thornton:

“No one should lose their life to change a broken system. We need to acknowledge that our criminal justice system is safe for neither the Black or the white man.

“As we all prepare for the release of this video tomorrow, all I can think about is, ‘When will the next time be?’”

Activist Karen Spencer McGee, aka, “Momma Peaches”:

“I want to say that I am so proud of Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis. She expressed sympathy for the loss of Tyre to his mother, not as a police chief, but as a mother of Black children…

“They are doing the right thing by re-evaluating special units, especially the SCORPION Unit….

“Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland hasn’t said enough. He never does. They are calling for peaceful protests. How about calling for the police to stop killing us?”

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari:

“While I applaud the swift action of the district attorney, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Memphis Police Department, there is no justice for Tyre Nichols today. Justice would be Tyre living to see his next birthday.

“Justice is people in this community having trust that our police officers will first police themselves. No one should fear for their life during a simple traffic stop or be afraid to even engage with our officers.

“So instead, today we begin the long act of healing our hurting community, Tyre’s mother and family, and ourselves. We cannot move forward together unless we are willing to do the work to hold our police department to the highest ethical standards and uproot any existence or acceptance of police brutality.

“This is our call to action and we must be vigilant.”

Memphis Branch NAACP President Van Turner Jr.

“We are gratified to hear that the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office charged five former officers with second-degree murder following the tragic and brutal death of Tyre Nichols.  No one should be viciously beaten to death over an alleged traffic violation.  The officers’ actions were despicable, excessive, callous and unjustified.  We hope that justice prevails.”

Tennessee State Conference President Gloria Sweet Love:

“Although we are pleased that the charges have been filed, we strongly urge the U.S. Department of Justice to continue its investigation.

“The accused former officers were reportedly members of the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods (“SCORPION”) Unit. The Memphis Police Department and its SCORPION Unit must be thoroughly investigated and monitored to ensure that all police officers abide by the law.

“We expect the police to enforce the law, not violate the law. We seek accountability and justice.”

Attorney and former Shelby County Commissioner Walter L. Bailey Jr. in a letter to MPD Chief Davis:

“As a member of the legal and political community for over half a century, I would be remiss if I did not openly extend my deepest thanks and appreciation for your exceptional professional administrative skill, wisdom, and courage. You demonstrated this in addressing the community’s outrage over the most concerning tragic death of Tyre Nichols in the custody of the five fired Memphis police officers.

“Your administrative process was implemented forthwith with reasonable time being allowed to ferret and fully investigate all the available facts before the severe discharge decision.

“Sadly, too often I have seen situations where decent police officers succumb to ‘group dynamics’ that cause them to become cowardly susceptible to the most heinous conduct. Here I am experiencing what appears to be a tragic occurrence like the one that occurred 52 years ago when Elton Hayes, a black teenager, who was apprehended in connection with traffic violations, met a similar fate as Tyre Nichols.”

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris:

“I grieve with the family of Mr. Tyre Nichols, who lost a beloved family member too soon. Together, we can work to build a more just and humane system.”

Congressman Steve Cohen, from the floor of the House:

“Right now, much of the national media is looking at Memphis as there was an awful killing of a 29-year-old African American man by five police officers within the last few weeks.

“The five police officers have been fired by the Police Department for violating their oaths…. It could be a situation where people want to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest actions of the Police Department, and people should. But they should be peaceful and calm.

“We have a new D.A. We have a new U.S. Attorney. And we have a new Police Director. They are the right people at the right time to bring about reform and to deal with this case to see that justice is rendered.

“I grieve for the life of Tyre Nichols, whose life should not have been extinguished. He was an outstanding young man and it’s extremely sad that he was killed.

“I pray for my city.”

During the closing moments of Monday’s press conference/rally at Mt. Olive C.M.E. Cathedral, Bishop Marvin Frank Thomas, Sr., presiding bishop of the First Episcopal District, offered this brief prayer: “Go in peace, but be restless in your peace until justice comes for Tyre and his family.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

State Sen. London Lamar after Monday’s press conference/rally at Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E.:

“It definitely brought me to tears to see that family having to stand in front of the public and share their grief with the world … considering what happened to their son. I don’t think no mother should have to experience a loss of their baby.

“But what I’m hopeful is, is that justice will be served, that they have a team of lawyers and community members who are going to hold everyone accountable to a timeline that they promise. Allow them the space to see through the process so that these officers will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

“So, I’m doing what I can in my role to offer support in any way that I can, but I’m hopeful and optimistic that justice will be served. …

“There is still work we have to do when it comes to police accountability and … we have to make sure we stay vigilant and make sure that we communicate and come together around keeping each other safe.”

(This story includes reports from the TSD newsroom.”


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