In response to the Jan. 7 murder of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers, and the release today of video of his brutal beating, Elder Leslie, Director of Transformative Justice at Michigan United, issued the following statement:
“Tyre Nichols was driving while Black, and it cost him his life. Now the world will be subjected to the video of his deadly beating by a group of Memphis police officers who were members of the department’s controversial SCORPION Unit. The officers have been fired, arrested, and charged. That is the appropriate response, but it does not rise to the level of justice our communities deserve. The violent SCORPION Unit and every unit like it across the country must be disbanded, the city’s police chief should be fired, and the federal government should step in to oversee the department.
“There is an epidemic of police killings in this country that can only be solved with structural change. Last year, police in the U.S. killed 1,176 people, a disproportionate number of them Black, according to Mapping Police Violence. That’s the highest number since researchers began recording such data in 2013, and it comes just two years after the largest protests against police brutality in U.S. history. Michigan, of course, is not immune. Patrick Lyoya was killed by an officer in Grand Rapids, but he was not the only one. It keeps happening, and nothing changes because too many of our policymakers still operate with a misguided understanding of public safety. We need to end qualified immunity, police unions need to stop protecting bad officers, and police forces must be demilitarized. We need those in power to start putting communities and care over austerity and carceral punishment. Michigan United will continue to fight to hold police accountable, and we demand justice for Tyre Nichols’ family and all victims of police brutality.”