Protestors rally in support of Tyre Nichols

Published: Jan. 28, 2023 at 3:30 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Several protests were organized Saturday in the wake of the release of Tyre Nichols’ fatal traffic stop footage.

Many who marched along the I-55 bridge Friday night reappeared for Saturday afternoon’s demonstration Downtown.

The protest lasted about an hour and included about 50 people.

This is not the first time Memphis has seen protests spurred by police brutality. Organizers said this protest is but one step in the recent history of working toward police reform.

“I think that work started years ago, when we were marching in 2016 to shut down the bridge,” said Devante Hill, a local pastor community activist. “I think the work started there. I think the work kept on going with grass-roots leaders across the city that do this work every single day. And so, we are maximizing this moment, the momentum of this moment, to continue the work of reforming our police department.”

Local leaders also joined the crowds with promises to make the necessary changes that would prevent cases like this from reoccurring.

While marching, word spread to the crowds that the Memphis Police Department completely disbanded its SCORPION Unit. Applause and cheers were heard.

It was SCORPION Unit officers who were responsible for critically injuring Nichols during his fatal traffic stop.

Protestors also called for the dismantling of other specialized police units, like the Organized Crime Unit.

One of the repeated demands Action News 5 heard was for all those involved in Nichols’ death, including the two Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies and two EMTs currently suspended, be fired.

Some demonstrators shared their thoughts on the footage that was released Friday night.

“It’s horrific. It’s not human,” said Patty Crawford. “But we must remember we are all human, and I believe we are all of the human race and we should all take care of one another.”

Memphis City Council Vice-Chair JB Smiley was seen marching alongside the crowds.

He also applauded the closure of the SCORPION Unit.

“We damn sure don’t stand for beating someone down in the streets of Memphis,” he shouted.

Memphis native Bryson Lashun Potts, better known as rapper NLE Choppa, also organized a march to “Skate for Tyre” in Parkway Village Saturday afternoon.

“Today I felt it in my heart to turn a negative situation into a positive. I actually went to sleep dwelling on how I could wake up today and do that,” he said before the rally. “I just wanna skate for Tyre, in respect to him, and know that’s what he would’ve wanted everyone to act.”

Supporters of all ages were seen on both wheel and foot, chanting, “Skate for Tyre.”

NLE Choppa said he wants to make sure Nichols is remembered for his life, not his death.

“He wasn’t just a Black man, he wasn’t a Black man that lost his life to another police brutality situation,” NLE Choppa said. “Let’s kind of get out of the statistic. He was a human being. He had things that he wanted to do. He had things he loved to do... so let’s remember him in that light instead of as someone that lost their life tragically.”

The group marched in unity for over a mile, from Cottonwood Road all the way to Chippewa Road.

The rapper says after seeing demonstrations popping up around the city Friday night, he wanted to influence local children to be involved in a peaceful way.

“I was meditating, I was laying down, and I was wondering what would God want me to do, and what would love want me to do, and when I got that thought... it came to me,” NLE Choppa said. “Plus, spread a message of what something [Tyre] would probably want, a video that he would’ve wanted everyone to see.”

He said he hopes his demonstration with the community will turn into something bigger and influence change.

Memphis rapper NLE Choppa speaks at a march he organized for Tyre Nichols in Parkway Village,...
Memphis rapper NLE Choppa speaks at a march he organized for Tyre Nichols in Parkway Village, one day following the release of the traffic stop footage that left Nichols critically injured on Jan. 7.(Action News 5)

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