The brutal beating and death of Tyre Nichols, who was kicked, shocked with Tasers and pepper-sprayed by five Memphis police officers, has reverberated across the United States, with activists, athletes, law enforcement officials and politicians on both sides of the aisle united in their horror and condemnation of the attack.

Memphis Police Tyre Nichols

Tyre Nichols

President Biden spoke with the Nichols family Friday and in a later statement said he, “like so many,” was “outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video,” calling it yet another “reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.”

Biden urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which aims to reduce police misconduct and called for “a swift, full and transparent investigation.”

Speaking to reporters on the White House grounds before departing on Marine One, he added that Nichols’ death was also about the “image of America,” and “has a lot to do with whether or not we are the country we say we are.”

Vice President Harris lamented that “once again, America mourns a life brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.”

Several Republican and Democratic politicians also spoke of their anger.


Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted that he couldn’t bring himself to watch the video but had read descriptions, adding “we are heartsick and we ache with sorrow for Tyre’s family and loved ones.” Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., said he was deeply disturbed by the video, while fellow Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., described the video as “difficult to watch.”

New York Democratic Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, said he was “devastated” and “outraged.” “As someone who spent decades fighting for police diversity and against police abuse, I feel betrayed,” he said.

“Tyre Nichols should be alive today,” said California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, noting in a separate statement that Nichols was a Sacramento native, while Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said the released footage brought “pain, horror, and terror.”

Activists also spoke out.

Lora Dene King, a daughter of Rodney King, whose 1991 beating by Los Angeles police also was captured on video and sparked widespread protests, urged people to use their voices to push peacefully for change. King said the police had behaved in a “sick” way and noted police had treated her father “the same” way.

Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the civil rights activist, said he was “deeply disturbed by the video,” labeling it a “horrific yet perversely familiar act committed by officers of the law.”


Advocacy groups, meanwhile, framed Nichols’ death as indicative of wider, structural problems in policing.

Amnesty International USA said the video showed “truly appalling, heinous, violent, and troublesome acts of inhumanity,” and called on the Memphis police not to view the event as an isolated act of individuals but to “acknowledge this as a systemic issue.”

Human Rights Watch said: “Despite the global uprising against police brutality and systemic racism in 2020, spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, police killed 1,186 people in 2022 – more than any other year this past decade.”

In the sports world, too, tributes and expressions of support were voiced.

Memphis Grizzlies basketball coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters “I cried,” after watching an interview with Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells.

The NBA also released a statement of support for Nichols’ family, while basketball star LeBron James opted to share an upbeat montage video of Nichols, a keen skateboarder, skating happily.


Law enforcement leaders from across the country, including in Los Angeles and Chicago, have expressed disgust at the actions of the Memphis police officers, calling the violence “reprehensible” and “horrific.”

“The disgraceful actions depicted in the released video are an unequivocal violation of our oath to protect those we serve, and a failure of basic human decency,” Keechant L. Sewell, the New York City police commissioner, said in a statement.

Eddie Garcia, the head of the Dallas Police Department, also condemned the actions of the former officers, saying they do not represent “the thousands of honorable police officers across this country.”

In Memphis, Nichols’ friends and protesters chanted “Justice for Tyre!” at a skatepark on Thursday to honor the 29-year-old father of one. On Friday, peaceful demonstrators in the city shut down the bridge crossing the Mississippi River, briefly blocking traffic on Interstate 55, to demand justice for Nichols and an end to “police terror.”

Many protesters told The Washington Post they would not watch the police video.

“I don’t have to watch the video to know what happened to him,” said Amber Sherman, a member of the Memphis chapter of Black Lives Matter. “I can see the picture of him in the hospital and know he was brutally murdered.”

Nichols’ death has resonated widely both because of the brutality of the beating and the harrowing nature of the video, which shows him screaming for his mother, just a short distance from home.

Nichols’ mother, however, hopes to answer her son’s pleas and told Biden her son’s death would serve as a call to action.

“My son will bring good out of all of this,” Wells said, “because he was a beautiful soul.”

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