We air excerpts from the funeral of Tyre Nichols, whose death on January 10 after a brutal police beating sparked protests across the country. “On the night of January 7, my brother was robbed of his life, his passions and his talents — but not his light,” said Nichols’s sister Keyana Dixon. We also feature remarks from Reverend Al Sharpton and Vice President Kamala Harris. “This violent act was not in pursuit of public safety,” said Harris. “It was not in the interest of keeping the public safe, because, one must ask: Was not it in the interest of keeping the public safe that Tyre Nichols would be with us today?”
AMY GOODMAN: Mourners gathered in Memphis, Tennessee, Wednesday for the funeral of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black father whose death after a brutal police beating has sparked protests across the country. We begin today’s show with excerpts from the funeral, which was held at the Mississippi Boulevard Church. This is Vice President Kamala Harris.
VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God, when they hold that child, that that body and that life will be safe for the rest of his life. Yet we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today. They have a grandson who now does not have a father. His brothers and sister will lose the love of growing old with their baby brother. And when we look at this situation, this is a family that lost their son and their brother through an act of violence at the hands and the feet of people who had been charged with keeping them safe.
And when I think about the courage and the strength of this family, I think it demands that we speak truth. And with this, I will say: This violent act was not in pursuit of public safety. It was not in the interest of keeping the public safe, because, one must ask: Was not it in the interest of keeping the public safe that Tyre Nichols would be with us here today? Was he not also entitled to the right to be safe? So, when we talk about public safety, let us understand what it means in its truest form: Tyre Nichols should have been safe.
So, I’ll just close by saying this: I was, as a senator, as a United States senator, a co-author of the original George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. And as vice president of the United States, we demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. Joe Biden will sign it. And we should not delay, and we will not be denied. It is nonnegotiable.
REV. J. LAWRENCE TURNER: The president of the National Action Network and our eulogist for this service, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
REV. AL SHARPTON: Early this morning, before dawn, I did what I often do when I come to Memphis: I went out to the Lorraine Motel. As a youngster, I joined SCLC Operation Bread Basket. I had been a boy preacher in the Church of God in Christ. And my mother was concerned, when I was 12, that I was getting too involved in looking at activism and Adam Clayton Powell and others. She took me to my bishop, Bishop F. D. Washington, who said, “I know what to do with him,” and he brought me to Reverend William Jones, who led Dr. King’s organization in New York, and Reverend Jesse Jackson. And at 13 — the year Dr. King died, I was 13 years old — I became youth director of the chapter in New York. So, it was my growing up in the King movement in the North after his death that makes me come to the Lorraine Hotel and look at the spot that Dr. King died.
This morning, I took my youngest daughter Ashley with me. And in all of the ice, I told the story of how Dr. King had came to Memphis to fight for garbage workers, city employees that had no safety, to have been killed with a malfunction. And here we are, Ashley, 55 years later, looking at the balcony where Martin Luther King shed his blood for city workers, for Black city workers to be able to work in the police department, work in sanitation.
And the reason why, Mr. and Mrs, Wells, what happened to Tyre is so personal to me is that five Black men that wouldn’t have had a job in the police department, would not ever be thought of to be in an elite squad, in the city that Dr. King lost his life, not far away from that balcony, you beat a brother to death. There’s nothing more insulting and offensive to those of us that fight to open doors, that you walk through those doors and act like the folks we had to fight for to get you through them doors. You didn’t get on the police department by yourself. The police chief didn’t get there by herself. People had to march and go to jail, and some lost their lives, to open the doors for you. And how dare you act like that sacrifice was for nothing? You ain’t in no New England state. You’re in Tennessee. …
I bring you, to give us our call to action, the attorney general of Black America, attorney Benjamin Crump.
BENJAMIN CRUMP: Ms. RowVaughn, Rodney, Jamal, Michael, Keyana, to all his family, grandma, his son, I know we can’t bring Tyre back, but in this call to action, we establish his legacy. And let’s never let them forget Memphis, because his legacy will be one of equal justice. It will be the blueprint, going forward, because we have to remember that in less than 20 days, when it was five Black police officers captured on a video engaging in excessive use of force, when they were committing crimes on video, that they were terminated, they were arrested, and they were charged. And the police chief, Davis — and I have respect for her saying this — the police chief said that it was important that the community see us take swift action. They said it was important that we move swiftly towards justice.
Well, when Laquan McDonald was killed in Chicago and by white police officers, it’s important that the community see swift justice, too. When Alton Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mitch, it’s important that the community see swift justice, too. When Stephon Clark was killed in Sacramento, California, it’s important that the community see swift justice, too. When Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island, New York, it’s important that the community see swift justice, too. When Pamela Turner was killed in Houston, Texas, it’s important that the community see swift justice, too. When E.J. Bradford was killed on Thanksgiving night in Birmingham, Alabama, it’s important that the community see swift justice, too. When Terence Crutcher was a Black man, Reverend Al, having car trouble in the broad daylight in Tulsa, Oklahoma, walking away with his hands up, and they shot him in the back, on video, it was important that the community see swift justice, too, on that. When Botham Jean, eating ice cream in his own apartment, policewoman come in, shoot and kill him, say, “I thought it was my apartment,” and saying self-defense in her position, it was a need to have swift justice, too.
And so, no more. No more can they ever tell us, when we have evidence on video of them brutalizing us, that it’s going to take six years, that it’s going to take a month, that it’s going to take three years, like Laquan McDonald. No, no, no! Twenty days. We’re going to start counting. We can count to 20. And every time you kill one of us on video, we’re going to say the legacy of Tyre Nichols is that we have equal justice swiftly! Swiftly! Swiftly!
REV. AL SHARPTON: These are two of the sisters of Tyre.
KEYANA DIXON: Tyre was my baby brother. Him and I are 11 years apart. He was so special to me, and he loved me, and I loved him dearly. You know, being the oldest of three boys, I had to watch my brothers, take them places that I probably didn’t want to take them, watch them at times when I didn’t want to watch them. But with Ty, I didn’t mind. He never wanted anything but to watch cartoons and a big bowl of cereal. So it was pretty easy to watch him.
On the night of January 7th, my brother was robbed of his love, his passions and his talents — but not his light. When my mother called me and said my baby brother was gone, I lost my faith. I cried. I screamed at God, asking how could he let this happen. And then my cries turned to anger, and anger turned to deep sorrow and a pain I never felt. When those monsters murdered my baby brother, it left me completely heartbroken. I see the world showing him love and fighting for his justice, but all I want is my baby brother back. And even in his demise, he was still polite. He asked them to “please stop.” He was still the polite young man that he always was. He asked them to “please stop.” And they didn’t. And that’s why my family will never be the same. And I will just always love my baby brother forever. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Keyana Dixon, sister of Tyre Nichols, speaking at her brother’s funeral in Memphis, Tennessee, Wednesday. This is Democracy Now! Today, President Biden is meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House to discuss police reform.
Coming up, Atlanta announces “Cop City” will go forward, despite growing opposition and the police killing of a forest defender. We’ll look at the city’s crackdown on protesters. Nineteen of them have been charged with domestic terrorism. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: The Mississippi Boulevard Celebration Choir singing “You Are My Strength” at the funeral of Tyre Nichols in Memphis Wednesday.