The bodycam footage of the January 7th, 2023, extrajudicial beating, and execution, of Tyre Nichols by five policemen of the Memphis Police Department was released two days ago, January 27th.
The shocking, inhumane footage shows the blatant and malicious beating of Nichols. In a cold-blooded manner, the Memphis Police officers took turns ferociously and mercilessly beating the 29-year-old man, who succumbed to his wounds three days later on January 10th.
Tyre Nichols, a FedEx worker, was fleeing police brutality when he was accosted and beaten on a public street in the middle of the night in his own neighborhood. The footage shows the five policemen collectively beating Nichols, taking turns throwing punches, kicks, and assaulting him with their batons, while intermittently spraying the downed and defenseless Nichols with pepper spray. Nichols called out for his mother repeatedly as the police murdered him. One police officer yelled before he beat Nichols: “I’m going to baton the fuck out of you!” He was killed less than 250 feet from his home.
The five police officers then left his limp body, in need of immediate medical attention, on the ground and in the January cold, as they commended each other, triumphantly joked around, and complained about Nichols “resisting arrest” — all while Nichols slowly bled out on the cold pavement. Medics later arrived on the scene and waited a full 16 minutes before administering potentially life-saving aid, further compromising Nichols’ critical condition. Likely due to their negligence in not providing immediate medical aid, two Memphis Fire Department employees were relieved from duty, although without official explanation.
An autopsy later confirmed that Nichols died due to “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” Nichols’ relatives claim that Nichols experienced cardiac arrest and kidney failure due to the beating, which led to his untimely and unjust death.
On January 26th, the five officers involved were arrested and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. Both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Justice have opened their own investigations into the killing as well.
Memphis Police chief Cerelyn Davis stated that the officer’s behavior was “a failing of basic humanity,” yet the footage shows an all too common, pernicious, and visible expression of the capitalist police state that has continually oppressed the workers of this country, particularly Black workers, for hundreds of years. The memory of those lost, and the gross injustices and capitalist brutality that Black Americans have faced, can never be forgiven. The relationship between Black American workers and the capitalist state has led to the untimely and unjust deaths of too many Black workers, as the capitalist state seeks to control the working class like clay in their hands.
In a city with a significant amount of elected Black leadership, this barbarous case proves the assertion that the solution to police barbarism is not Black police. Police serve the capitalist class regardless of any such characteristics. Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, correctly stated that “It’s not about the color of the police officer. … What they did was wrong.” All police officers serve the capitalist state, and no amount of liberal idealizing about Black, women, or LGBTQIA+ police officers can change this material fact.
Liberals, in their overwhelming ignorance of class relations, scratch their heads as to how this brutal killing of an unarmed Black worker could happen in a city with so much Black elected leadership — including even the Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis, the first Black woman to ever serve in that role in Memphis. Every class-conscious worker in this country knows deeply that cops, no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, or creed, are nothing but foot soldiers for an arm of the capitalist state that indiscriminately lays its truncheon on all workers who dare oppose their hegemony. No amount of police “reforms,” and no amount of “morality” and “ethics courses” for cops, can change this harsh reality.
Tyre Nichols was a young worker, unjustly executed by police. The hearts and minds of all workers should all be with him and his family. We must never forget this capitalist barbarism, perpetuated and enforced by the police, and we must never forgive the forces that allow it to happen. Justice and solidarity for Tyre Nichols!
Note: A GoFundMe has been created by Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, to help pay for the costs associated with Nichols’ funeral and memorial, and to support his family who must take off work. We encourage everyone to donate.