tyre nichols

Hundreds March in NYC Over Tyre Nichols Video; 3 Arrested

Five Memphis police officers, all of them Black, involved in the Jan. 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols, also Black, were charged with murder and other crimes ahead of the bodycam footage's public release on Friday night

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What to Know

  • Tyre Nichols, 29, was stopped in Memphis for alleged reckless driving on Jan. 7; police initially said a confrontation ensued, he ran and another confrontation happened; he ended up in the hospital and died three days later. Condemnation from those who saw the body cam footage has been universal
  • Nichols' family accused police of beating him so badly he suffered a heart attack and kidney failure; all five fired Memphis officers, all of them also Black, involved in the case are charged with murder
  • Body camera footage of the beating was released Friday, leading police departments across the country to encourage officers to use caution and protect right to peaceful demonstration

Protesters took to the streets of New York City — and the country — in the aftermath of the Memphis Police Department releasing body camera footage of officers repeatedly hitting and beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop earlier in January.

Two protests sprung up in Manhattan immediately after the video was shared nationwide, as a groups in Times Square and Union Square quickly gathered to display their outrage, and continued for hours into the night. Chants of "No Justice! No Peace!" filled the night air block after block, the crowd's frustration, pain and anger palpable as many watched the footage on their phones after it was made public.

"It was very hard to watch. I cried as I was watching it. Because it was another one of my people is dead," said demonstrator Kevin Deshields.

(Clips from the footage of Nichols' arrest can be seen in the video below, which has been edited for time and profanities. Click here to see the full video released by police — Warning: It shows graphic violence that could be disturbing.)

The Memphis Police Department released the video Friday. It includes police body cam footage and footage from a surveillance camera on a pole.

The groups marched on the streets before eventually combining into one larger demonstration that contained about 250 people people in midtown. Chopper 4 was over the scene as the crowd marched through the streets, holding up traffic or moving through cars at different times.

Just before 9 p.m., a protester jumped on an NYPD vehicle and smashed the windshield at the demonstration near Times Square, a police captain told NBC News. Police swarmed the scene and took the person into custody in handcuffs. The man was said to be bleeding from his wrist.

Police said it was one of three arrests that had been made as of 9 p.m. Another arrest was made for punching a police officer, while the third was for an undisclosed reason, according to the police. All of the arrests were related to the vandalism of the NYPD vehicle.

Police are also documenting any damage to other vehicles as protesters weave through cars. They also confiscated bikes from protesters who were trying to prevent arrests from being made.

NYPD officers were seen monitoring alongside the protesters. Despite the isolated incidents, the protests overall had been largely peaceful. Those who organized the demonstrations said they were planning for more rallies in support of Tyre Nichols.

New York's commanders-in-chief at both the state and city level, along with top NYPD officials, said in no uncertain terms Friday that they support people's right to protest in the wake of the just-released body camera footage, which had been condemned universally and emphatically even before the drop.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, asked about potential protest at an unrelated subway safety briefing earlier Friday, affirmed New York State Police and the NYPD had been strategically briefed and deployed, and were prepared to adapt as necessary to any situations that may evolve later Friday or over the weekend.

Hochul urged people to heed the words of Nichols' own mother, who called for peaceful action hours ahead of the video drop Friday.

"On behalf of her family and his 4-year-old child, if you’re going to protest, please do so peacefully in her son’s memory," Hochul said. "That’s something we all need to take to heart."

President Joe Biden shares some details of his call with the family of Tyre Nichols.

Adams, meanwhile, shared some rarer personal inflections as he asserted NYPD's ability to protect protesters. He also echoed what Nichols' mother and stepfather said.

"My message to New Yorkers is to respect the wishes of Mr. Nichols' mother. If you need to express your anger and outrage, do so peacefully," he said.

The mayor said that NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, like her counterparts across America, had been strategizing with her top aides and the department throughout the day to ensure peaceful demonstrations would be able to proceed. Adams said that the department was "fully prepared to allow New Yorkers to peacefully voice their concerns."

The nation's largest police force advised its nearly 36,000 officers to be vigilant and support New Yorkers' peaceful right to protest.

In a statement Friday night, Sewell said that the department "will have an increased police presence over the next days to ensure that people who choose to are able to express themselves freely and safely," and again supported peaceful demonstrations.

"While we understand, appreciate, and share the high emotional charge of this tragedy, our Department will never tolerate violence, willful destruction, or any other criminality," the statement read. "Our responsibility is to protect the constitutional right to peacefully assemble and protest."

Mayor Eric Adams speaks on the former police officer in Memphis charged in the death of Tyre Nichols.

Tyre Nichols Dies Days After Memphis Police Beating

Nichols, a 29-year-old father to a 4-year-old boy, died at a hospital three days after the Jan. 7 confrontation with police during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee's second-biggest city behind Nashville. The FedEx worker was pulled over for reckless driving minutes from his home, on his way back from taking sunset photos at a suburban park, that night.

In a preliminary statement a day later, police said "a confrontation occurred" as cops approached the car and Nichols ran. "Another confrontation occurred" when they caught up.

Body cameras captured an as-yet publicly unknown series of events around the beating. Nichols' family saw it Monday.

One of their attorneys, noted civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, said cops beat him like a "human piñata" for three minutes. Crump likened Nichols' arrest to the notorious 1991 beating of Rodney King at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department, describing the encounter as "violent" and "troublesome on every level."

Another family lawyer described the footage as "savage" and well outside the realm of what the offense warranted. Some of those who have seen the video have said it shows a shocking level of police brutality — but Nichols' mother said she hasn't watched any of the footage yet.

"I’ve never seen the video, but from what I’ve heard it is very horrific.  Very horrific," said his mother, RowVaughn Wells.

FBI Director Christopher Wray says he was "appalled" by what he saw when he watched the footage of five Memphis police officers beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Nichols, who was shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained, the video shows, and heard crying out for his mother, was taken to a hospital after complaining of shortness of breath. Relatives accused the cops of delivering such a brutal beating that it caused Nichols to have a heart attack and his kidneys to fail.  

Prior to Thursday, authorities had only said that Nichols experienced a medical emergency. The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the case. Autopsy results have not been released.

Nichols' family had wanted the five officers charged with first-degree murder -- and Crump said the fact that they were the same race is irrelevant. He said it underscores overarching and longstanding racial inequities around traffic stops.

Despite their heartbreak and outrage, the family of Tyre Nichols lowered the temperature a bit on Friday, praising Tennessee law enforcement for taking swift action to fire the officers and to secure a grand jury murder charge for each of them. Nichols’ mother and stepfather urged Americans to remain peaceful – even if the Memphis traffic stop recordings are as awful as forecast.

"We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance. We want peaceful protest," said Rodney Wells, Nichols' stepfather, as he was flanked by civil rights leaders.

They said consequences for cops accused of brutality have traditionally taken months — but in this case, the five officers accused of beating Nichols were fired and charged with murder in just three weeks. Crump said that should be "the blueprint going forward."

"No longer can you tell us we got to wait six months to a year, even though we got a video of the with evidence of the excessive force," the lawyer said.

The city of Memphis has been on edge about the release of the police footage because of the possibility of unrest, and officials at all levels of government have forcefully denounced the allegations -- and vowed changes -- in recent days.

Memphis' Mayor Jim Strickland issued a contrite statement Thursday night, saying, "It is clear that these officers violated the department’s policies and training. But we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again. We are initiating an outside, independent review of the training, policies, and operations of our specialized units."

"Lastly, I am sad and angry for the family of Tyre Nichols. I am also angry for the many good men and women of the Memphis Police Department who devote their lives to serving our citizens," he said. "We must all work to regain the public’s trust and work together to heal the wounds these events have caused." 

Lawyers for two of the accused former police officers urged the public to reserve judgement on their clients until they get their day in court.

U.S. Attorney Kevin G. Ritz said his office is working with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to investigate the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died after a violent arrest by Memphis police.

Law enforcement departments had been preparing for potential protests across the country. Police in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., have issued similar advisories to the one from the NYPD Friday.

The NYPD has said, as it does in all cases involving potential demonstrations, that it supported the right to peaceful protest. Given the disturbing nature of the footage, though, and it is urging officers to use enhanced caution.

Violent protests erupted across the five boroughs in late spring 2020 following the death of George Floyd in police custody. More than 160 buildings were set ablaze. Police vehicles were torched. Molotov cocktails were thrown and stores looted. Misconduct allegations abounded during the days-long protests, which were exacerbated in part by out-of-state demonstrators bent on stoking further chaos and national division in the lead-up to the presidential election.

Dozens of people were arrested and more than 100 NYPD cops were ultimately cited for misconduct.

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