Tyre Nichols was a father, son, friend and co-worker. But on Jan. 7, he became the face and victim of the latest violent clash with law enforcement. He was 29 years old.
The release of body camera and surveillance video last week shows that Nichols was stopped by police near his home in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was brutally beaten and kicked. Based on the video released by authorities, they continued to beat him until he could not stand. There appeared to be no urgency to administer medical attention.
Law enforcement once again took on the role of judge, jury and executioner. It didn’t have to be that way. Now, a child has lost a father, a mother has lost a son and a community mourns another life needlessly taken by those who are sworn to protect them. We keep seeing this play out over and over again as names like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor come to mind.
There is something about policing in this country that must be transformed. While there are good officers out there who care about their communities, there are still those who carry a badge and believe that sets them above the law. We have got to talk about policing in a different way in the U.S. and focus on the toll this behavior is taking on marginalized people. The impact on marginalized individuals spills over into other issues such as a lack of educational opportunities and poverty. It’s all part of the death of the human soul. People are being left behind, and as a result, find themselves on the receiving end of injustice as we’ve witnessed through these videos. There is no respect for human life, and that must change.
I call on all Presbyterians and individuals who say they are concerned about human rights and social justice to step up, get involved, connect with your communities. It’s not just about social justice. It’s about shaping our communities so that people can be respected regardless of their socio-economic background. How do we value people again?
I join others across the country who weep for Tyre Nichols as a young promising life was snuffed out too soon. I ache for his family who must live their lives knowing their son didn’t have to die. I pray for our country as we struggle to find our way. We must be monitors of this type of behavior, and the faith community has to do something about it. I ask Jesus Christ to come into our hearts, minds and lives, energizing us to make positive change so that this young man and others will not have died in vain.
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)