Home News For Black Memphians, Tyre Nichols's death opens new chapter of pain – The Washington Post

For Black Memphians, Tyre Nichols's death opens new chapter of pain – The Washington Post

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MEMPHIS — When Cloyd Nightingale was 15 and working at a local cookie company, a woman burst into a warehouse screaming. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel, he said.

The 70-year-old stopped behind a protester on Interstate 55 to watch video footage of a hometown police officer brutally beating Tyre Nichols. He thought of that woman in the warehouse, he said. He swore he could hear her sobbing.

For Nightingale, the pain of the violent loss of a black man in Memphis brought back the anguish he felt nearly 55 years ago. But this time, he said, the feelings were different because the perpetrator was black.

“It’s been really hard being five black police officers.” “Who would do a young man like that,” he said. “I never thought it would happen.”

Officials across the country braced for violence after police released a video on Friday of five officers charged with second-degree murder brutally beating an unarmed 29-year-old Nichols.From President Biden Leaders from police chiefs to mayors to governors turned to Memphis as a potential center of violence, issuing statements condemning the violence and encouraging cities to prepare for the unrest of the night. bottom.

But in a black city with a majority black police station and a majority black police chief, the killing of a black man by five black police officers did not incite outrage.

Some downtown stores closed early, but none were boarded up like stores nationwide after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Demonstrators marching on Interstate 55 were home by 10:30 p.m. They wanted to handle it silently.

Hanging in the stillness was King’s legacy, whose assassination in 1968 shaped Memphis in many ways.Many in the city said they grew up wanting to embody his non-violent spirit and dismantle the association. Between Memphis and the moment King was shot by a white man standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, which has since been turned into a Civil Rights Museum.

Some black residents of Memphis Approximately 65% ​​increase in city populationthey hope Nichols’ murder doesn’t overshadow the considerable racial progress the city has made in recent decades. Others noted that the Memphis Police Department’s increased diversification has not led to better relationships with the communities they patrol.

“I thought it must be five white officers. “It made me feel really sick, really sick.”

Willie Moore, 74, is one of Memphis’ most famous black business owners, and when he was younger, black Memphis police officers accused him of carrying weapons and committing crimes in white neighborhoods. He said he was not authorized to arrest or arrest white residents. Today, many are proud that the department is a majority black police force. In a city like this where her one in three of her children grows up in poverty, law enforcement could be your ticket to the middle class.

“People are smart enough to realize that this is due to an individual and not to blame the entire police department,” Moore said. “The whole police station is pretty good. Some people just happen to get caught, but I don’t think that’s normal.”

He served lunch to a large crowd at Willie Moore’s Family Restaurant on Main Street on Saturday. On both the restaurant’s front door and interior walls, Moore hung a picture of himself, then 19, standing behind King as he marched down Maine’s Street in 1968.

Today, Main Street is a vehicle-free thoroughfare used only by pedestrians and the city’s trolley services. The popular Bruce He not only has bars and barbecue restaurants, but also many empty stores. Moore said he hopes this moment of national attention will help the city’s black community redouble their efforts to build wealth and economic power.

“The real reason people despise black people is because they have no power,” Moore said. “We have the power to vote in numbers, but without the funding base, we have no power.”

Other Memphis residents said they weren’t surprised by police brutality regardless of race and hoped that this moment in the national spotlight would create lasting reforms in the city. A long time police station. They pointed to killings decades apart to show that little has changed.

of 1971a 17-year-old black man was fatally beaten by Memphis police officers and Shelby County sheriff’s deputies after a high-speed chase. I shot him dead. 19 years old A black man after a traffic stop.

Days after Nichols was murdered, members of the city’s official Black Lives Matter chapter called for, among other things, an end to the specialized police force named “Black Lives Matter.” scorpionwas created in late 2021 with the aim of increasing police presence in crime-ridden neighborhoods at a time when the city was experiencing a spike in homicides. All five officers who took down Nichols were members of that unit.Memphis police say they dissolution It’s Saturday afternoon.

42-year-old Sharonda Williams lost her father in a shootout with Memphis police officers in 1983. She described the relationship between law enforcement and her community as strained and disrespectful. Put up a written sign and called for it to end all. Pretext traffic stops.

“To be honest, we are really afraid of the police,” she said. “It feels awkward.

On Saturday nights, Williams said she often sees police officers and bar patrons cursing each other. She said a certain dynamic prevailed throughout the city, regardless of the officer’s race. He said he was particularly upset when he learned he was a black police officer.

“It was disturbing and very hurtful that they were black officers who were not much older than Tyre, who are of the same race as Tyre,” she said.

Parked in a row of cars near Williams on Friday night was Jasmine Johnson, 48, who was stranded on Interstate 55 for three hours because of a protest. A look back at how the lives of Memphis residents have changed over the decades. Economic conditions and other aspects of life have improved steadily, with one major exception. It’s a crime.

She noted that Memphis experienced a record number of murders in 2020 and 2021. A social issue that hit black families particularly hard.

With young black men making up the majority of victims and perpetrators, Johnson said Memphis’ black community needs more role models for young Memphis residents to follow.

“If the police don’t lead by example and don’t follow the rules and regulations, how can we expect people living in cities to follow the rules and regulations?” Johnson said. “There’s already five people with their knees tied up. It looks gang-related and looks like something little kids do these days.

Hours after the protesters returned home, Man shot dead on Beale Streetthe boulevard officially declared “Home of the Blues” by Congress, highlights the daily violence that worries Memphis residents.

Shortly after police left the scene of the murder early on Saturday, a handful of tourists prowled outside the Lorraine Motel, staring at a plaque citing Genesis 37, 19-20, saying, “They said to each other, Lo and behold.” Here comes the dreamer…let’s kill him…and see what happens to his dreams.”

Security guard Jonathan Holmes was sitting in a nearby golf cart watching them.

The 37-year-old Memphis native wanted to work at the Civil Rights Museum, in part because he wanted to learn more about history. He thinks it would be worthwhile to walk through the building and learn more about the forces that contributed to the Atlantic slave trade, the liberation movement, and the racism still seen around him.

Holmes said he was proud to live in a black-majority city. He looks around every day, sees black business owners, black patrons, and black leaders, but his feelings fall short of the black police officers who patrol the streets of his city.

“As a black man, I think it would have been more helpful to police our neighborhoods because people who look like us aren’t going to kill us too fast,” he said. officers were more aggressive than white officers.”

He said a black policeman pulled him over in 2006 and immediately began yelling at him for ignoring a red light. returned.

Holmes, who sat in a blue security suit on Saturday, said he would not protest the murder of Nichols, as he did over the murder of Floyd in 2020.

“I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted,” he said. “At this point, it’s not even about race anymore. Now it’s about the police.”

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