CHICAGO — Amid freezing temperatures and chanting “killer cops have got to go,” at least a dozen protesters arrived Friday night outside a police precinct in one of the first planned protests of the Tyre Nichols killing at the hands of Memphis police.
Protests have been planned from coast-to-coast this weekend after law enforcement officials in Memphis released a troubling video in the fatal police beating of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died three days after a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
The video of the killing, which involved five Black officers, shows Nichols being tased, belted with a baton, repeatedly kicked in the face and brutalized despite seeming to put up no resistance.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis told CNN Friday that the video shows “acts that defy humanity.”
“You’re going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we’re all sworn to, and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement,” the chief said.
That description brings to mind the video of police officers beating Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991. The acquittal of the officers involved in that incident set off many protests.
The incident also comes more than two years after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police – also caught on video – spurred local protests and a global racial justice movement.
The family has asked supporters to protest in peace. During a press conference on Friday, Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said, “More than anything we want peace. We do not want any type of uproar, we do not want any type of disturbance.”
LIVE COVERAGE:Memphis to release footage of traffic stop that led to death of Tyre Nichols
Chicago protesters arrive amid freezing temps, growing outrage
A dozen people gathered across from a police precinct in Chicago in freezing temperatures Friday evening to protest the killing of Tyre Nichols, as well as call attention to the killing of Anthony Alvarez, who was fatally shot by Chicago police in 2021.
“From Memphis to Chicago, these killer cops have got to go,” the group chanted. Some held signs saying “Justice for Tyre Nichols” and “End police terror.”
Ana Santoyo, 33, a Chicago native running for alderperson, said the killing is another reminder that police brutality is pervasive in the U.S. “It’s not just bad apples. It’s the whole bunch,” she said.
Santoyo said no mother should have to go through what Nichols’ mother is going through. Santoyo, who is Mexican American, said she worries about how police will see her own infant son as he grows up.
“Time and time again we know, cops don’t keep us safe—whenever we hear another name, whenever we have to say another name,” she said.
Kamran Sidiqi, 27, who helped organize the demonstration, said he hopes protests in Chicago and nationwide send a message that Memphis is not alone in its calls for justice for Nichols. For Sidiqi, justice begins with seeing the officers involved convicted.
“It’s tough to imagine what justice is here because Tyre is never coming back,” he said. “That’s someone’s son, someone’s friend lost forever. That’s a human being’s life that is gone. But a modicum of justice would be putting these killer cops in jail. A modicum of justice would be building a whole new system so that this can’t happen again.”
Dozens march in NYC’s Times Square
Protesters began marching through a congested Times Square shortly after 7:30 p.m.
New York City Councilmember Chi Ossé, the 24-year-old Brooklynite elected after he organized during Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, stood alongside the marchers, who formed a small crowd at the glimmering tourist hub.
“Nothing has really changed since 2020,” Ossé said. “And if anything, we’ve seen police budgets grow across the country, right?”
The protests continued southbound on Seventh Avenue just before 8 p.m., with onlookers at Times Square watching. Traffic stood still as marchers passed.
“Justice for,” a speaker shouted through a megaphone. “Tyre Nichols,” marchers chanted back.
Cities from Portand, Oregon, to Washington, D.C., anticipate protests
Organizations and individuals across the country have said they are planning or expecting protests Friday.
On Friday afternoon, mayors from major cities spoke with White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall and Senior Advisor to the President Julie Rodriguez on a call to be briefed on federal preparations for the expected protests. “White House officials asked the mayors to remain in regular contact over the coming days and reiterated that the President will continue to be clear in his message to the American people that peaceful protests are appropriate, but violence is never acceptable,” the statement said.
In an unrelated press conference Friday afternoon, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on residents to protest peacefully in the wake of the video release.
“From what I’ve been led to believe, these are going to be really tough videos for people to watch. And people are going to have a lot of emotional reaction to them. But I hope that that emotional reaction does not lead to destruction of property, acts of violence or other things that frankly undermine the strength of our city,” Lightfoot said.
In anticipation of the video release, various law enforcement groups said they plan on closely monitoring the demonstrations.
The New York Police Department said it will have “heightened security at police station houses” and extra officers in “hot spots” like Times Square.
“The Department has examined, adapted and adjusted our response to protests and is prepared to protect the Constitutional right to peaceful protest, and works to ensure public safety for every New Yorker exercising their First Amendment rights,” the law enforcement agency said in a statement.
Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department said it “will not tolerate any unlawful behavior during First Amendment demonstrations, and we will take swift law enforcement action should anyone break the law.”
Dallas Police Department said in a statement that it will “respect everyone’s right to protest” but “will take the appropriate action if anyone’s actions threaten lives or harm people or property.”
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, tensions were already high over the law enforcement killing of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, an environmental activist said to have shot a state trooper. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday declared a state of emergency.