The 30th birthday party for Tyre Nichols Monday (June 5) at Fourth Bluff Park had practically everything – music, rappers, spoken-word performances, and tons of family fun.
More than 500 people came out to honor and remember the young African-American man, who came to represent the country’s need for police reform.
Nichols, 29, was fatally bludgeoned Jan. 7 by Memphis police officers, assigned to a specialized crime-suppression unit, near his Hickory Hill home. He died Jan. 10.
The officers said Nichols was driving recklessly when officers stopped him. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, however, said investigators could find no indication Nichols was driving improperly.
The block of Front Street between Court and Jefferson was blocked off for skateboarders performing for Nichols, an avid skateboarder, with their best tricks and maneuvers.
The celebration was epic, except that the man of the hour was not there to enjoy his day.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was on hand to support the family and declare that not only would there be “justice in the courtroom, but there will also be justice for the community.”
Crump also praised the efforts of Tony Hawk’s The Skatepark Project, which announced that twin skateparks would break ground next year, both named for Nichols.
One will be built in Memphis, and the other in Sacramento, California, where Nichols lived before relocating to Memphis and where he still has a host friends co-workers and fellow skateboarders.
A cheering crowd received the news with immense joy.
RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, told an attentive respectful crowd that she had “a little breakdown today.”
“When I woke up this morning, it was my son’s birthday,” said Wells. “…He didn’t come into my room this morning so I could give him a hug…”
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, was more tearful as he remembered his son.
Skateboarders whisking up and down Front Street, attempting jumps and daring tricks that ended in a fall reminded Wells of his son.
“That’s what Tyre did,” Wells said. “Fall and crash, but he always got back up. And he got back up with a smile on his face…and this has put a smile on my face.”
Five police officers, all African Americans, are charged with several serious felonies, including second-degree murder, for Nichols’ death.
The release of a video showing the beating sparked outrage across the nation as mass protests called for reform of law enforcement policies.
Memphis officials, especially the City Council, was besieged meeting after meeting by protesters demanding reform.
The council eventually responded by passing a series of ordinances, including one banding pretextual traffic stops.