The footage of five Memphis police officers severely beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols earlier this month during a traffic stop has sparked protests nationwide, and has elicited many strong reactions from federal officials as well as local ones in the D.C. area.
Nichols, a Black man, died days after being tased and beaten for over three minutes by the five officers, all of whom are also Black. The officers, who have since been fired, were charged with second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.
Demonstrations similar to the 2020 protests after the death of Minneapolis’ George Floyd broke out in Memphis, with protesters claiming the police are part of a “broken and racist system.”
President Joe Biden spoke with Nichols’ family, saying Nichols’ mother “has made a very strong plea” for protests to remain peaceful. D.C. police prepared for the potential of protests turning violent, lining up alongside streets where they were set to take place.
Nichols’ family, after viewing the body cam footage, said they found it reminiscent of the infamous 1991 Rodney King case.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released a statement Friday night saying, “Tonight, I stand with the millions of Americans sending condolences and love to the family of Tyre Nichols as they navigate this unimaginably difficult tragedy. We are traumatized by violence, especially violence against Black Americans.”
D.C. Attorney Gen. Brian Schwalb tweeted the following message on Friday night: “I urge people across the District who are understandably angry and heartbroken to make their voices heard peacefully in the coming days. The Office of the Attorney General will always protect and support your right to peacefully protest in DC.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also put out his own statement Friday night, where he expressed sorrow for Nichols and his family while urging demonstrators to be peaceful.
“The hearts of Virginians and our entire nation ache tonight as we struggle with the horrible events in Memphis and grieve for Tyre Nichols and his family. The disturbing and shocking video released this evening displays incomprehensible violence towards another human being and we must condemn these heinous actions,” Youngkin said.
The Virginia NAACP, in a press release, called for the passing of legislation that “fundamentally changes policing in America.”
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the state is grieving with the Nichols family.
“It’s difficult not to fight back tears watching this video,” Moore said. “The inhumanity that was shown to Tyre Nichols, a young skateboarder and amateur photographer, is intolerable by anybody, but especially by people whose job and responsibility it was to protect him. I’m thankful that the Department of Justice is engaged in this investigation and these five individuals must be held to account for their barbarism.”
Clyde Boatwright, the president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, tore into the Memphis police officers who’ve been accused of murdering Nichols in his statement.
“What I witnessed in that video was horrific. It was a barbaric assault on another human being and is sickening. This does not represent policing or the men and women who wear a badge and dutifully protect their communities,” Boatwright wrote Friday. “I hesitate to even call these men police officers, because what I saw on that video is not policing. They deserve the strongest punishment allowed by Tennessee law.”
Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones called the incident “extremely disturbing, frustrating, and discouraging,” also calling the Memphis officers’ actions “indefensible.”
“Our nation and the law enforcement community are once again faced with the death of a man at the hands of people who have taken an oath to protect and serve,” Jones said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, former House Majority Leader from Maryland, said that Congress has a “responsibility to do more to root out bias and misconduct in our justice system,” while former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that called on the House to, again, pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer posted on Twitter Friday night following the release of the videos.
“I am heartbroken, horrified, and appalled by the heinous murder of Tyre Nichols. The repetitiveness of unjust murders is a stain on America. The five police officers betrayed their oath to serve and protect, and they should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Schumer said.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee called the bodycam footage “difficult to watch,” and said her office has been in touch with the Justice Department about the incident.
“Chuck and I are praying for the loved ones of Tyre Nichols and for peace in Memphis and across our state,” Blackburn said.
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, who tweeted Saturday that he had not yet watched the video, drew criticism from many commenters urging him to watch — and to then take action.
“I have read descriptions of the brutal beating,” Romney said. “Ann and I cannot yet bring ourselves to watch the video. We are heartsick and we ache with sorrow for Tyre’s family and loved ones.”
WTOP’s Kyle Cooper and Alejandro Alvarez, as well as The Associated Press and CNN, contributed to this report.