California leaders outraged, calling for calm over videos of Tire Nichols beating in Memphis

Leaders across California reacted with full-bodied condemnation when videos of the fatal caning of 29-year-old motorist Tire Nichols by police officers were released by Memphis authorities this month.

Nichols — who was from Sacramento and moved to Memphis in 2020 — was punched, stalked and punched during a traffic stop on Jan. 7, according to authorities, and footage from officers’ body cameras and a pole camera show the incident in vivid detail. Nichols was taken to a local hospital in critical condition and died three days later.

“Tyre Nichols should be alive today,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Friday night. “The released video shows the heinous behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power.”

Five Memphis police officers — Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean — were fired Jan. 20 and charged with second-degree murder Thursday. They were also charged with two counts of misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official repression and one count of aggravated assault.

After the video was released, vigils and protests were quickly planned across Northern California.

One of the first came Friday night in downtown San Francisco, within hours of the footage being released, when dozens of picketed protesters peacefully marched down Market Street in front of the Westfield mall.

A portrait of Tire Nichols will be displayed Tuesday at a memorial service for him in Memphis.

A portrait of Tire Nichols will be displayed Tuesday at a memorial service for him in Memphis.

Adrian Sainz, STF/Associated Press

San Francisco Mayor London Breed called the actions of the Memphis officers “terrible and inhumane.”

“We are angry and disgusted at yet another senseless loss of life of an unarmed black man at the hands of those who have sworn to serve and protect all people,” she said in a statement released Friday night. “No one is above the law, and true justice means holding the officers responsible for these crimes accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao struck a similar tone, adding that she hoped people would respect the Nichols family’s desire for peaceful protests.

“It is wrong and appalling that this young man was killed,” she said wrote on Twitter. “It pains me to know that Tire’s family had to see a video of their son and a loved one being brutally beaten and they will likely see it again in the coming days. I can’t imagine her pain.”

Bay Area representatives Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee each offered their condolences and called for justice.

“My heart goes out to Tire Nichols’ mother and her entire family,” Pelosi said said in a tweet. “We need to reform the police. The House of Representatives must again pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — and this time the Senate must submit it to the President.”

lee wrote that she was “appalled at the senseless loss of another black man’s life at the hands of law enforcement.”

“It’s really hard to find words to describe the shocking brutality with which five police officers took Tire Nichols’ life,” Lee added. “It is clear that there is tremendous work to be done to address the injustices in our systems.”

For civil rights attorney John Burris — who has represented many victims of police abuse, most notably Rodney King, the plaintiffs in the Oakland Riders case, and the family of BART beating victim Oscar Grant — the most damning part of the video was that the officers stood by and didn’t Providing help to Nichols.


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