An image of Tyre Nichols is projected onto a building in Washington during a rally in protest at his death following a police beating
Memphis (AFP) - Hundreds gathered in a Memphis church Wednesday to bid farewell to Tyre Nichols, an African American man who died after being brutally beaten by police, with civil rights leaders Al Sharpton leading the high-profile service attended by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Anger is still simmering over the death last month of Nichols, three days after the 29-year-old was beaten and kicked in a traffic stop by five Black police officers – in an incident that rekindled a national debate about brutality in law enforcement.
“We have come into this place locked in solidarity across the nation and world to celebrate the life of Tyre Nichols, a good person, a beautiful soul,” said Reverend J. Lawrence Turner, the senior pastor at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.
“Gone too soon, denied his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, denied the dignity of his humanity, denied the right to see the sunset another day,” said Turner.
Nichols’ death on January 10 has added force to national calls for sweeping revisions to policing across the country, and especially police mistreatment of Black Americans.
Five officers involved in the beating have been fired and are facing murder charges.
Two others along with three firefighters have been suspended as the investigation into Nichols’ death continues.
Nichols’ funeral drew civil rights leaders, politicians and the family members of other Black Americans who lost their lives to police violence.
Sharpton, the veteran activist for Black rights, was delivering the eulogy.
Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing Nichols’ family, said Harris was making the trip after being invited by the victim’s parents.
Crump, who has represented the families of other African American victims of police violence, said that Harris was able to console Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells by telephone “and even help her smile.”
President Joe Biden, who also spoke with the victim’s mother, described himself as “outraged and deeply pained” by the footage of the beating.
He plans to meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House on Thursday to discuss police reform legislation and other priorities, according to a White House spokesperson.
Turner said the funeral was to provide comfort and support Nichols’ family.
“This family has endured the unsolicited unwarranted, unreasonable, unjustifiable and massive burden of grieving their loved one, and at the same time, fighting for justice,” he said.
“As Memphis demands justice, and as our nation awaits justice, family, we’re praying for you that God will continue to give you strength,” he said.
“Your strength has held us steady, and helped us to constructively channel our outrage and turn our anger into action.”