An African American man who died after he was brutally beaten by police in the southern US city of Memphis will be laid to rest Wednesday, as the shockwaves from his death keep pulsating across the country.
The funeral of Tyre Nichols will be attended by civil rights leaders, politicians and the family members of other Black Americans killed by police in violence that has fueled a national reckoning on systemic racism and brutality in law enforcement.
They include Philonise Floyd — the brother of George Floyd, whose murder by a police officer in 2020 was filmed by horrified bystanders and ignited waves of unrest across the country and beyond.
Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton and US Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend the service in Tennessee.
Nichols was arrested by members of a special police unit called Scorpion in Memphis on January 7 for a traffic violation, according to police.
The 29-year-old was beaten viciously by the police and died in hospital three days later. His treatment by the officers was recorded in body camera and security camera footage that has since been made public.
Five of the officers involved have been fired and are facing murder charges. Two others along with three firefighters have been suspended and the Scorpion unit has been disbanded.
Demonstrators have called for further reform in the wake of Nichols’ death. Authorities had feared widespread and perhaps violent protests such as those which followed the killings of Floyd and other African Americans by police, but so far the rallies have remained peaceful.
Philonise Floyd’s attendance at the funeral was confirmed by the law firm representing Nichols’ family, while the White House announced Harris will attend.
Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing Nichols’ family, said Harris was making the trip after being invited by the victim’s parents.
Crump, who also represented Floyd’s family and the families of many other African American victims of police violence, said that Harris was able to console Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells by telephone “and even help her smile.”
The choice of such a high-profile representative from the White House underscores the political impact from Nichols’ death.
President Joe Biden has described himself as “outraged and deeply pained” by the footage of the beating.
He plans to meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House on Thursday to discuss police reform legislation and other priorities, according to a White House spokesperson.
Sharpton will deliver the eulogy for Nichols at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on Wednesday, with the service set to begin at 10:30am (1630 GMT).
Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, another prominent African American victim of police violence, will also attend.
Taylor, 26, was killed by police during a botched middle-of-the-night raid on her Kentucky home in 2020.
Like George Floyd, she has since become one of the icons of the Black Lives Matter movement seeking police reform and justice.