We mourn Tyre Nichols and the cycle of brutality against Black people

The funeral for Tyre Nichols was held today at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee. The Rev. Al Sharpton eulogized Mr. Nichols at the memorial, which was also attended by Vice President Kamala Harris, Breonna Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer, and George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd.

The Equal Justice Society extends our deepest condolences to the Nichols family and loved ones, who should not be grieving the loss of their son, brother, and father.

It is disgusting and horrifying to begin Black History Month with the funeral for yet another unarmed Black person killed by police.

We are sickened by the senseless and endless cycle of police killing Black people, protests, firings, trials, lawsuits, more protests, attempted or cosmetic fixes via police officer trainings, and on and on and on.

Nevertheless, we must keep working, even as this country’s history of devaluing the lives of Black people repeats itself. After the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, we understood that the necessary deep and transformative changes would not be easy to achieve. We renewed our commitment to deep transformative change to our public safety system.

Over the past nearly three years since Mr. Floyd’s murder, we grew hopeful that the work and movement that his sacrifice would bring the necessary systemic change. But more Black people continue to be brutalized. We have no choice but to persevere against the difficulties, setbacks, distortions, mislabeling, detractors, vilifiers, and incrementalists.

At last week’s meeting of the California reparations task force, EJS President Lisa Holder cited the historic Task Force Interim Report establishing that the criminal legal system is responsible for some of the most egregious state-sanctioned human rights abuses against Black people.

As a member of the reparations task force, Lisa urged strengthening the provisions of The Racial Justice Act, including greater uniformity in its implementation and better data collection and more prosecutorial transparency. She also proposed the creation of a Racial Justice Act Commission to track, audit, monitor and analyze data generated and to increase funding for public oversight so that community organizations can build expertise on racial justice advocacy and compliance.

Lisa serves on this historic reparations task force to shift the narrative on Blackness away from crime and punishment, away from Black bodies being perceived as an immediate danger and used as the canvas for exacting retribution. The shift must be towards a harm and repair construct, where all state actors acknowledge the harm they have inflicted on Black people, abate the harm, and take action to pay the debt owed and repair the damage to Black lives. In the name of reparatory justice, we call on the police to cease and desist.

The necessary deep and transformative changes will not be easy to achieve. We owe it to Tyre Nichols, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Keenan Anderson, and the countless others who have been tragically lost to press on in the fight for a system and future that will bring honor to their memory.

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