HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — North Alabama advocates are struggling to come to grips with the Memphis Police Department’s display of force that resulted in the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.
Video details police pepper-spraying, beating, and kicking Nichols — he died three days later.
Nichols and many of the police officers involved were Black, leading advocates to believe that racial prejudice is not the sole cause of this crime.
The body camera and surveillance video show that a systemic problem doesn’t need police of a particular race to put policing back in the spotlight. Huntsville community leader Rev. Dexter Strong was dismayed at what he saw.
“I don’t want violence of any type,” Strong explained. “I especially don’t want violence that comes when policy makers have decided that entire demographics and entire geographies aren’t worth our time and aren’t worth social evaluation.”
Strong said some have asked the question, “Why Nichols didn’t just comply when officers asked him to put his hands behind his back?”
“I am not clairvoyant, and I don’t know what was going through his mind or what was in his heart,” Strong said. “But I did hear that young man call out for his mama. In our society, there is a silent agreement among most Americans that it’s okay for police to behave in this way.”
Strong told News 19 that the beating of a Black man by the hands of Black officers is clear evidence that a call for a change in law enforcement culture falls short. Black people in underserved communities have called for a change in a culture they say promotes fear, mistrust, and mutual disrespect.
“We’ve sang about it; we’ve talked to policy makers about it, and we protested,” Strong continued. “Black people have also whispered in the quiet hours of the night to our god and things have not changed.”
Strong says these incidences should no longer be a surprise to the American people.
“I’m tired of watching this with my eyes and when I saw it, I said to myself that I’m familiar with the circumstances and the neighborhood and the Memphis policing problems,” he added. “We get these types of interactions and then people act surprised.”
Strong went on to say that the only silver lining to the death of Tyre Nichols is that it opens the door for a broader conversation about the need for police reform.