More than a hundred protesters gathered in Boston on Saturday afternoon following the release of video footage showing the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, a Black driver who died three days after a confrontation with police in Memphis, Tennessee.
A rally was scheduled around 2 p.m. in the Boston Common. There was anger on the steps of the Massachusetts State House that was met with a sense of sadness.
“We’re meant to work together in this world and instead we’re tearing people apart and killing our brothers and sisters and it’s unacceptable," one woman said close to tears.
There was a range of emotions on Saturday, illustrated in signs supporting Black lives and justice for Nichols.
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Video of the attack on the 29-year-old was released Friday, resulting in protests, rallies and pain across the country.
“I have not watched the video because of the trauma," a Black woman said in Boston on Saturday. "And I share that trauma with many other Black women, mothers, families, communities."
Another person who attended Saturday's protest in Boston said the video footage left her at a loss for words.
"Horrified I think is the best way to describe it,” she added, noting it was partly what fueled her to turn out on Saturday at the rally that was organized by the party for socialism and liberation, where support for systematic change is widespread.
“I don’t want legislative reform anymore," another attendee shared. "I will not be pacified by legislators making a big deal and then forgetting about it until the next Black person is murdered on the street.”
As marchers in the distance took to the streets, their feelings of anger and sadness were not without company, though.
“There’s a word called hope. There’s always hope."
Warning: the videos of the incident show graphic violence and may be upsetting to some viewers.
Protesters also rallied in Boston on Friday night after a vigil at The Embrace memorial on the 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.”
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.
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. "
More on the Tyre Nichols case
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.
Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell released a statement on Saturday morning, saying she did not need to see another video to know that there remains "tremendous work" to do to address corruption, police brutality, and racial injustice in the US and in Massachusetts.
"Tyre Nichols was a father, a son, a friend, a community member and a human being. I am deeply saddened and emotionally overwhelmed by the brutal and savage beating ending in the murder of Tyre. I am sad for his loved ones, including, his parents and son, friends, the Memphis community - all of us."
"While I applaud the immediate firing and indictment of the officers involved, I also recognize that our society has begun to normalize these violent acts and, as long as we continue to do that, we will issue statements and then move on. As the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth, I will not move on."
"Each of these cases breaks the heart of mothers, communities, especially the Black community," she added. "This persistent trauma destroys our young people and families."
The attorney general went on to note that, while she believes in accountability and holding all five Black officers fully accountable, "the direct and active participation of Black officers adds an additional layer of pain for the community."
"With this deep understanding that people are suffering, I know that praying and issuing a statement are not enough," she concluded. "The Attorney General's office will do everything in its power to tackle racial injustice, police corruption, hate and brutality."