The release of video footage of a brutal police operation after which a 29-year-old black man died of his injuries had been awaited with great anticipation in the United States. On Friday evening (local time), several videos were released by the police in Memphis, Tennessee, showing the incident from different settings. US President Joe Biden was shocked by the pictures. Protests broke out in several places.
In the videos that have now been released, you can see how Tire Nichols is first stopped by the police in his car. The officers then pull him out of the car and push him to the ground. Again and again the police officers yelled at him in the recordings to lie down on the ground. Nichols is already on the ground. Nichols appears level-headed in the situation, telling the cops several times to stop. He is on his way home, Nichols can be heard saying and: "I haven't done anything". Eventually, Nichols manages to break free and flee on foot. An officer's attempt to stop him with a stun gun fails.
Nichols is caught by officers at another intersection. What then happens can be seen from three different perspectives, recorded by the officers' body cameras and by a permanently installed camera on a street lamp. Several officers hold Nichols down while other officers brutally beat him several times 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.
Another shot shows two officers holding up Nichols' torso while a third officer kicks him in the head. The emergency services then drag the badly injured Nichols to a nearby emergency vehicle and lean his upper body against the side of the car.
The video has caused outrage in many places. Demonstrators peacefully blocked a major freeway that runs through Memphis in the evening. Many held up signs that read "Justice for Tyre." According to media reports, three people were arrested during protests in New York. 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, Biden said.
In the Nichols case, five of the police officers involved, who were fired after the January 7 incident, were charged with murder and other offenses on Thursday. After the video was released, the county sheriff announced that two of his 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.
The case is also explosive because Nichols was black and deadly police violence occurs time and again in the United States, with mostly black people falling victim. The family's lawyers denounced the US police's racist treatment of black people in the country. The five accused ex-police officers are also black. A Black Lives Matter executive said in a statement that anyone working in a system that uses state-sanctioned violence is complicit in perpetuating white supremacy. Assimilation into an anti-black system is one of the most dangerous weapons of white supremacy, it said.
In the past, such attacks have repeatedly sparked violent protests across the country. The murder of African American George Floyd by white police officer Derek Chauvin 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. Unlike Nichols, however, King survived with serious injuries. In black families in the United States, it is common for parents to teach their children special behaviors to improve their chances of surviving a confrontation with the police.