Dozens of people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Wednesday evening to honor the memory of Tyre Nichols.
Nichols, 29, was pulled over by police officers in Memphis on Jan. 7 under suspicion of reckless driving. In body-worn camera footage released last week, Nichols can be seen escaping from the officers on foot, pursued by an officer attempting to use a taser on him. After officers caught up with Nichols, footage shows officers kicking, punching, and beating him with a baton. Nichols, who was about a football field from his home at the time of the incident, can be heard in the video screaming for his mother while being beaten.
Nichols died three days later in the hospital.
Five officers have been fired and charged in his death.
Rochester City Councilmember Stanley Martin said Nichols’ killing was another example of a need to divert funding for police into social services and other community-based resources.
“We know the city budget is coming up, and we want to make sure we are no longer allocating our taxpayer dollars to police who do not live in our community, or police period,” Martin said. “We have police receiving $100 million, yet there’s so much violence in our community.”
The current budget allocates $91 million to the Rochester Police Department, a decrease of about $600,000 from the previous year. However, that number may change, particularly due to rising costs of police overtime.
For example, the Police Department’s budget last year was increased by about $2.3 million to compensate for those costs.
For vigil-goers, Nichols’s death hit close to home, invoking the 2020 death of Daniel Prude. Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, who was in attendance, said the issue is not about race, it’s about policing.
“This ain’t never been about no damn race,” Prude said. “It’s about a gang with badges that’s influencing the streets to be scared of them.”
At the end of the night, mourners left lit candles beneath a posterboard portrait of Nichols. For some, the vigil was a chance to grieve alongside others feeling pain and frustration.
click to enlarge
- PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
- Vigil-goers Camille Uadiale (left) and Justin Delinois lean on each other during speeches lamenting Nichols's death.
“I just feel like I can be out here with my friends and grieve together and talk about what’s going on in the world together, to feel like I’m not alone in the situation,” said Camille Uadiale, an ASL interpreting student at RIT originally from Georgia.
Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected].