Protesters in Times Square and other parts of the city Friday evening demonstrated against the Memphis police beating of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died of his injuries earlier this month.
The demonstrations coincided with the release of bodycam footage showing Nichols being beaten by several officers. The officers have since been fired and charged with various crimes, including murder.
Nichols’ brutal death triggered nationwide outrage, and led to protests across the country. On Friday, over 100 protesters were at Times Square, chanting Nichols’ first name. They took to the streets after protesting, heading south toward Penn Station.
“It keeps on happening,” Sophia Weissman, a school teacher in the Bronx, said of people’s deaths at the hands of police. “And even though we’ve had reforms over the past couple of years, they’re not enough to interfere with the system of violence that keeps on happening.”
Weissman said she’s considering having conversations with her students over Nichols’ death.
It keeps on happening. And even though we’ve had reforms over the past couple of years, they’re not enough to interfere with the system of violence that keeps on happening.
Stephanie Attar, a professor of economics at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, was in Times Square for the Friday evening demonstration. She said she hadn’t seen the video Memphis officials released at 7 p.m. showing officers pummeling Nichols after he fled from them following a traffic stop. Still, she remained stunned over another incident involving Black men and police.
“We’ve had politicians telling us for decades that they’re going to change, things are going to change, that the violence is going to end, and nothing changes,” Attar said. “We’ve even had more Black police and the fact that so many Black police have been involved in police murders shows us that this is not just a problem of racism – although racism is a very important element – this is also a system problem.”
Attar wants governments to divert money away from police departments.
It don’t matter what color you are, once you’re in the police force, you are blue.
Earlier in the afternoon, Mayor Eric Adams urged New Yorkers to honor Nichols’ mother’s request to protest peacefully, and asked New York City police officers to exercise restraint.
“My message to New Yorkers is to respect the wishes of Mr. Nichols mother,” Adams said, later adding, “My message to the NYPD has been and will continue to be to exercise restraint.”
Adams condemned the actions of the police officers involved in Nichols’ death, as did NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell. She noted New Yorkers can expect to see greater police presence in the coming days to “ensure that people who choose to are able to express themselves freely and safely.”
Shortly after the video’s release at 7 p.m., protesters converged in Union Square. Stacyann Richards said the color of the officers’ skin was irrelevant for her.
“It don’t matter what color you are, once you’re in the police force, you are blue,” Richards, a Black mother of a 15-year-old girl, said. “There’s no Black, there’s no Asian, there’s no white, it’s just cops. They’re protected by the Blue Wall. Surprisingly, the Blue Wall is not protecting them.”