Sharpton says Tyre Nichols funeral will be ‘about justice,’ not politics
Rev. Al Sharpton said the funeral for Tyre Nichols on Wednesday will be “about justice,” not politics as he, other civil rights activists and Nichols’s family call for reform to prevent what happened in Memphis from occurring again.
Sharpton and members of Nichols’s family gathered at The Church of God in Christ in Memphis on Tuesday ahead of Nichols’s planned funeral on Wednesday to stand in solidarity over his death and push for action and legislation to change how Black individuals have been treated by certain officers before.
“We are going to have a dignified funeral service, not a marathon, tomorrow, and let the family mourn and receive whatever messages and the vice president, but this is not about politics tomorrow — it’s about justice,” Sharpton said.
Vice President Harris is scheduled to attend the funeral for Nichols on Wednesday.
Sharpton and other speakers renewed calls for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would implement measures like requiring officers nationwide to wear body cameras, prohibiting officers from using chokeholds and declaring deadly force to only be used as a last resort.
The bill passed the House during the last session of Congress before stalling in the Senate.
Sharpton also called for eliminating qualified immunity, which protects officers from civil lawsuits while performing their responsibilities in most cases.
“We are here to establish and proclaim that we are going to continue to fight this fight around police brutality and killing until we get federal laws changed,” he said. “What happened to Tyre is a disgrace to this country.”
He said people from around the world have now seen a video tape of a man who was unarmed and “unprovoked” being “beaten to death.”
He said the officers who are responsible for beating Nichols and leaving him on the ground for more than 20 minutes without medical attention thought no one would respond or care. But he said “we’re all Tyre now,” and people from across the world, including the vice president are going to “stand up with this family.”
The press conference took place at the church where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last speech entitled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated. King’s speech has been interpreted as referring to a point at which everyone is treated with equal rights and protections.
“We wanted to bring this family the night before the funeral — the night before Dr. King was killed, this is where he spoke — and they’re standing on that ground because we will continue in Tyre’s name to head up to Martin’s mountaintop,” Sharpton said.
Van Turner, the president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP, said people are tired of “lip service” and want to see action. He said activists need to stay “focused” on the cause and ensure that Nichols did not “die in vain.”
He said police should have a duty to de-escalate, intervene, render aid and be decent.
“You don’t have to be trained to be a decent human being,” Turner said. “You don’t have to go through police proceedings to know if a man is sitting there, slumping down, you got to render aid to him so that he can live. I’m not a police officer, and I know that.”
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