Editor’s note: This article contains videos and descriptions of explicit violence.
(CNN) — Protesters once again took to the streets to condemn police brutality over the weekend after the release of a video showing the violent beating by Memphis police that led to the death of 29-year-old Tire Nichols.
Groups of people marched this Saturday through New York, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, among other cities in the country, raising signs with their names and calling for an end to abuses of authority.
In Memphis, at a makeshift memorial near the corner where Nichols was beaten, resident Kiara Hill expressed disappointment, saying the neighborhood was quiet and family-oriented.
“Seeing how events unfolded, with this Tire Nichols situation, is heartbreaking. I have a son,” Hill told CNN. “And Tire, out of the officers on the scene, was the calmest.”
Nichols could be heard screaming for his mother in video of the January 7 encounter, which begins with a traffic stop and goes on to show officers repeatedly beating the young man with batons, punches and kicks, including at one point while his hands they are restricted behind his back.
He was then left on the ground in handcuffs, and it was 23 minutes before a stretcher arrived at the scene. Nichols was eventually hospitalized and died three days later.
Since then, the reaction has been relatively quick. The five Memphis officers involved in the beating — who are also black — were fired and charged with Nichols’ death. The unit they were a part of disbanded, and state legislators representing the Memphis area began planning police reform bills.
Nichols’ family lawyer, Ben Crump, said the swift firings and arrests of the police officers and the release of the video should be a “blueprint” for how allegations of police brutality should be handled in the future. He applauded Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for arresting and charging the officers in 20 days.
“When you see police officers commit crimes against citizens, then we want you to act as quickly as the chief said, the community needs to see it, but we also need to see it when it comes to white police officers,” Crump said.
Memphis police shut down SCORPION unit linked to fatal beating
The five former Memphis police officers involved in the arrest were charged with manslaughter and aggravated unlawful imprisonment, among other charges, according to the Shelby County district attorney.
The police officers, identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr., are expected to be arraigned on February 17.
The attorney for one of the accused officers, Mills Jr., issued a statement Friday night saying he did not cross lines “that others have crossed” during the confrontation.
The five officers were members of the now disbanded SCORPION unit, Memphis police spokeswoman Maj. Karen Rudolph told CNN on Saturday. The unit, launched in 2021, placed officers in areas where police were tracking increases in violent crime.
Memphis police announced Saturday that they are disbanding the unit, saying that “it is in everyone’s best interest to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit.”
But disbanding the unit without giving officers new training would be “putting lipstick on a pig,” city council president Martavius Jones told CNN on Saturday.
Memphis City Councilor Patrice Robinson also told CNN that disbanding the unit is not enough to address problems within the agency.
“We have to fight bad players in our community, and now we have to fight our own cops. That’s deplorable,” Robinson said. “We’re going to have to do something.”
The fallout from the deadly encounter also spilled over to other agencies involved.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees who were part of Nichols’ initial care have been relieved of their duties, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. And two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies have been suspended pending an investigation.
A pair of Democratic state lawmakers said Saturday they intend to introduce police reform legislation before the Tennessee General Assembly’s Tuesday filing deadline.
The bills will seek to address mental health care for law enforcement officers, hiring, training, disciplinary practices and other issues, said Rep. GA Hardaway, who represents a portion of Memphis and Shelby County.
Rep. Joe Towns Jr., who also represents a portion of Memphis, said the legislation could pass the state house in April or May.
While Democrats are in the minority with 24 representatives compared to the Republican majority of 99 representatives, Towns said this legislation is nonpartisan and should pass on both sides of the legislature.
“It would be hard to look at this video (of Tyre Nichols) and see that what happened to that young man is okay, and not want to do something. If a dog in this county was hit like that, what the hell would happen?” Towns said.
“I will never have my baby again”
When she saw her son, badly bruised and swollen in his hospital bed, Nichols’ mother says she knew she wouldn’t make it.
“When I saw that, I knew my son was gone, the end,” RowVaughn Wells told CNN.
Through tears, the mother said the officers charged in her son’s death “brought shame on their own families. They shamed the black community.”
“I don’t have my baby. I will never have my baby again,” she stated. But she takes comfort in knowing that her son was a good person, she said.
The 29-year-old was a father and also the baby in his family, the youngest of four children. He was a “good boy” who spent Sundays doing laundry and getting ready for the week, his mother said.
Nichols loved being a father to his 4-year-old son, his family said.
“All he was trying to do was get better as a father to his 4-year-old son,” Crump said at the family’s news conference.
“He always said that he was going to be famous one day. He didn’t know this was what he meant,” Wells said Friday.
A verified campaign of GoFundMe started in memory of Tire Nichols has raised more than $936,000 as of early Sunday morning. The online fundraiser was created by Nichols’ mother and she says in part: “My baby was just trying to get home to be safe in my arms. Tire was unarmed, non-threatening, and respectful of the police throughout the entire encounter!”
Hannah Sarisohn, Phin Percy, Mark Morales, Shimon Prokupecz, Sara Smart, Chuck Johnston, Jamiel Lynch, Sharif Paget, Christina Zdanowicz, Amanda Watts and CNN’s Jaide Timm-Garcia contributed to this report.
Source: CNN Espanol