Famed religious leader and civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton has weighed in on the death of Tyre Nichols and the five Memphis police officers who were captured on body-cam footage beating him to death.
Sharpton didn’t mince words when speaking in Harlem on Jan. 28. At the National Action Network, the group’s leader said he was horrified by the footage, and compared the incident to the infamous beating of Rodney King in 1991, the same year the group was founded.
“Here I am now in 2023, and I’m looking at another video in color, where I’m seeing another Black man being beat to death,” Sharpton said. “Rodney didn’t die. This is worse. It’s beat to death with no mercy on no crime that they can even find that he had committed.”
The reverend pledged to help hold the five officers — who were also Black — accountable, charging that the men can’t hide behind their race in the trials to come.
“Did you think ‘cause you was Black we wouldn’t say nothing? Did you call thinking you would hide behind your blackness?” Sharpton said to a rousing round of applause. “I want to say loud and clear that we will fight Black cops, white cops, all the cops committing crimes against us.”
Nichols, a 29-year-old father to a four-year-old boy, was reportedly on his way home on Jan. 7 when he was stopped by police. The Memphis Police Department initially said he’d been stopped for reckless driving, but the police chief later said the department was unable to confirm that claim. Shortly after, officers wrestled Nichols to the ground before using a stun gun on him. After a brief struggle, the cops beat Nichols until he was critically injured and in handcuffs. He died of his injuries three days later.
Sharpton alleged Saturday that the five officers attempted to cover up their crime by “saying one thing and doing another.” He feels that the cops could have subdued Nichols with handcuffs at any time but instead chose to mercilessly beat their victim.
“We are not anti-white police brutality, we are anti-police brutality,” Sharpton said. “These five cops not only disgrace their badge, they disgrace their race.”
Outrage over Nichols’ death has reverberated from Memphis to the Big Apple, with furious protesters hitting the streets of New York ever since the footage was released.
A funeral for Nichols is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Feb. 1.