Protesters rallied in Boston Friday night following the release of footage showing the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, a Black driver who died three days after a confrontation with police in Memphis, Tennessee.
Warning: the videos of the incident show graphic violence and may be upsetting to some viewers.
Before the video was released Friday night, supporters gathered for a vigil at The Embrace memorial on the Boston Common. That event opened with a prayer and called for unity. Speakers, including Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, called for community and for more work to be done to stop police violence and anti-Blackness.
“What happens in Memphis doesn’t just impact Memphis,” Wu said. “When horrific acts by those who are sworn to protect and serve anywhere take place they undermine the trust in those who are sworn to protect and serve everywhere.”
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On the other end of the Common, near Park Street station, another group rallied, carrying signs for Nichols and for other victims of police violence. Chants of "no justice, no peace, no racist police" rang out from the crowd.
At both events there was a sense of fatigue and frustration that they continue to have to hold these types of gatherings, with attendees saying they were angry and tired of the repeated violence and horror perpetrated against Black men.
Authorities said Memphis police stopped Nichols for reckless driving on January 7, two confrontations ensued, after which Nichols complained of shortness of breath.
The 29-year-old father died in the hospital three days later.
On January 20, all five Memphis Police officers, who are all Black, were fired after an internal investigation found they violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.
On Thursday they were officially charged with murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping resulting in bodily injury and official misconduct charges.
One of the former officers, Desmond Mills, Jr., is from Connecticut. The other officers charged are Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, and Emmitt Martin, III.
All five former officers have pleaded not guilty.
Attorneys for the former officers and the Nichols family have very different views on their conduct during that arrest.
"No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die. No one," attorney William Massey, who is representing Martin, said.
“There’s never a level of humanity extended to Tyre by the officers. He just kept waiting for somebody to say, ‘hey guys, we got him, let’s just calm down,'" Ben Crump, who represents Nichols' family, said.
Locally, New Democracy Coalition founder Rev. Kevin Peterson said in a statement, “Our concern is that this murder in Memphis of a Black man by police could inflame local passions in our city....We recognize that protesters have the right to express their anger at what they may see on the video but we also urge for calm and peaceful dissent.”
The vigil at The Embrace memorial opened with a prayer and called for unity. Speakers called for community and for more work to be done to stop violence and anti-Blackness.
A protest on behalf of Nichols is also scheduled for Friday night at Park Street station, at the Boston Common.
It is not clear what scale of protests are expected, but the video has been described as "horrific," "appalling," and compared to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. The Nichols' family is calling for peaceful protest.
State Sen. Lydia Edwards (D- Third Suffolk) said all this is a reminder of work left to be done.
"If he does anything but inspire us to be better, to come together, and to also hold police, law enforcement accountable, then he would not have died in vain," Edwards said.
Gov. Maura Healey released a statement on the matter Friday:
“We face another tragic moment in our country. What we see today will cause tremendous pain, for Tyre Nichols’ family, for Memphis, and for Black people forced to relive generational trauma caused by police brutality. While true justice would mean Tyre Nichols being here with his loved ones, the swift action taken by the Memphis Police Chief and prosecutors demonstrates the essential accountability and oversight we need and what families deserve," it read in part. “What happened in Memphis is a betrayal of our basic humanity. We value the dignity and worth of every member of our Black and Brown communities, every person in Massachusetts. "
Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Col. Christopher Mason also released a statement saying that State Police "unequivocally condemn" the actions of the former Memphis officers.
"The brutality alleged in these indictments, and supported by the evidence described by Tennessee authorities, represents clear criminality and an utter breach of public trust," the statement read in part.
Mason also noted that State Police are prepared for any demonstrations and urged protesters to exercise their rights peacefully.