NEW YORK (PIX11) — Protests are expected in the New York City region in response to the release of video showing Tyre Nichols’ beating by five police officers in Memphis.
Communities are preparing for its impact, with a wide array of people from New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor, to clergy leaders and parents, all calling for calm as they try to process what’s widely expected to be images that spark outrage.
“Hopefully, everything is going to be done quietly and easily,” said a Harlem resident who only gave his first name, Duane, about expected protests. “Everybody’s gonna have words to say,” he continued. “I hope it’ll be positive.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul expressed a similar sentiment about the effects of the video release.
“Heed the words of Tyre Nichols’s mother on behalf of her family and his 4-year-old child,” the governor said Friday at an unrelated news conference. “If you’re going to protest, please do so peacefully in her son’s name.”
Mayor Eric Adams was with Hochul at the news conference. The former NYPD captain who’d advocated for police reform, as well as higher representation of people of color in the police ranks, said that the beating death affected him personally and emotionally.
“What it appears is that these officers tarnished much of the work that many of us attempted to accomplish,” the mayor said.
Adams acknowledged that the video is expected to be brutal. Among many people, including parents of school-age children, that’s sparked real concern.
“I just don’t know what to expect,” said one mother, who said that she was on her way to pick up her daughter from elementary school. “[I don’t know] how I’m going to be breaking it down to my kids myself.”
Rev. Malcolm Byrd, the senior pastor of Mother A.M.E. Zion Church, said that he’s preparing to talk to his parishioners in church on Sunday. He’s recommending that parents not avoid talking about the video, and should use discretion over what gets shown.
“Allow your children to ask questions, allow them to form their own conclusions,” Pastor Byrd said. “But before the conversation is over, remind your children that they are part of the family of humanity.”
Nichols’s funeral is set for Sunday, with Rev. Al Sharpton invited to give the eulogy.
In an interview with PIX11 News, Sharpton said that he’d talked extensively with the Nichols family, and he repeated their calls for protests to be peaceful. However, he added that demonstrations after the video is released also need to be powerful in calling for change.
“If there’s violence, you’re only playing into what they say,” said Sharpton. “They’ll say that’s what they [thought] Nichols was going to be like.”
He said that he and other civil rights leaders have been calling for federal legislation that holds police officers more accountable, including eliminating qualified immunity, the legal principle that shields officers from civil lawsuits and other punitive acts.
That kind of exemption, Rev. Sharpton said, is what protesters must call for.
“We need to deal with police outlaws the same way we deal with any other criminals,” he said.