‘We are not afraid’: Chicagoans protest police killing of Tyre Nichols
February 5, 2023
About 100 protestors crowded the streets of Chicago’s downtown Federal Plaza, Monday, Jan. 30, in light of the recent death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers.
Memphis police pulled over Nichols, a 29-year-old Black motorist, on Jan. 7, according to NPR. Police body cam footage released on Jan. 27 shows officers beating Nichols after he attempted to flee on foot that evening.
The protest was held to demand justice for Nichols, along with Manuel “Tortuguita” Teron, Keenan Anderson and all victims of police brutality.
“We’ve seen time and time again that the system is not meant for us, and the police do not protect us at all,” said William Guerrero, a youth organizer who was at the protest. “Even though it did not happen here in the city of Chicago, It doesn’t mean that things like this… [don’t] happen in Chicago. It happens in Chicago, and we’re here to hold the police accountable.”
Bishop Tavis Grant, acting national executive director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, spoke at the protest and began his statement by urging the crowd to “say his name.”
The protestors shouted in response, “Tyre Nichols, Tyre Nichols, Tyre Nichols…”
Grant went on to speak about institutionalized racism within the Memphis police force and across the U.S.
“One of America’s most brutal acts of institutionalized racism on a 140-pound body, bears the spirit of Tyre Nichols,” Grant said. “As a native of Memphis, I know what it’s like to confront racism in the Memphis Police Department. We were raised and taught to be afraid of them. But the night [has] stopped. We are not afraid.”
A statement from the Memphis Police Department reports five former Memphis police officers were fired and charged with the murder of Nichols. Two other officers have been relieved of duty and three fire department personnel have also been fired. However, Grant claims nearly 25 people were reported at the scene of Nichols death, including deputies in the Sheriff’s Department.
Grant called for the termination and indictment of all officers and first responders who were at the scene of Nichols killing.
“These groups of organized criminals… are able to detain without probable cause, profile without probable cause, arrest without probable cause and cure without probable cause,” Grant said. “But the life of Tyre Nichols will not go in vain.”
With the sound of police sirens and ambulances honking their horns behind him, Guerrero stepped up to speak.
In his opening statement, he said, “All those people that are dying by the police [who] were supposed to protect and serve us, they’re not doing their job.”
Guerrero went on to urge protestors to continue to organize, gather and speak out against cases of institutionalized racism within the criminal justice system.
Soon after, Arewa Williams, a candidate for the 15th police district council came forward to speak.
“CPD publicly executed my 16-year-old nephew, Pierre Laurie, on April 11, 2016, and… as a secondary survivor of police violence… there is no law, training or policy to prevent what happens too often to Black men, women and children in this country,” Williams said. “Our bodies, our Black bodies have been used for vehicles of violence and hatred [since] the [first] African set foot here.”
For Williams, those wearing the badge of a police officer should have a better relationship with the communities they protect. She believes they should be tolerant and honest and have unwavering respect for human life, no matter someone’s race, gender or sexuality.
“And no matter how much we think that we have achieved the American dream, we must continually confront systemic and institutional constructs of racism in all forms,” she said. “Some officers should have physically intervened to save Tyre’s life.”
Williams shouted, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom.”
The crowd echoed her words, responding with, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom.”
Although protestors said they found the speeches inspiring, some thought the turnout was not enough and were saddened by the need to be protesting against police brutality once again.
One of the protestors, Mara Lynne, felt more people should have come out for Nichols the same way they did for George Floyd in 2020.
“When the whole George Floyd thing happened in 2020, everyone was out,” Lynne said. “And now, no one’s really here. I mean, I’m thankful for just one person, but it all died down pretty fast.”
Marcelo Muro, another native Chicagoan who attended the protest, said because it was Black officers who killed Nichols, it shows how police brutality is a result of the flawed system, and not just a few individuals.
“The fact that it was a lot of Black cops, I think, makes a lot more people realize that it’s not just white cops killing Black people, it’s a lot more nuanced than that,” he said. “It’s an obvious attack on the structure of the police.”
One of the speakers at the protest, Cassandra Greer Lee said the people must hold the officers involved in Nichols’ death accountable.
“I’m a little broken tonight, but I’m here,” Lee said. “I’m not gonna stop fighting. So with all five of those [officers], I want you to hold them accountable.”