NEWARK, NJ — To express their grief and anger over the death of Tyre Nichols, area residents gathered in Newark on Jan. 28 to demand justice for Nichols, who was beaten to death by five police officers in Memphis, Tenn., and for Carl Dorsey III, who was shot and killed by a Newark police officer. The rally was organized by the People’s Organization for Progress.
On Jan. 7, five police officers from the Memphis Police Department severely beat 29-year-old Nichols during a traffic stop. Nichols died three days later. The officers allegedly stopped Nichols for reckless driving. They pulled him from his car, pepper-sprayed him and shocked him with a stun gun. He was able to run away, but, when he was caught, five officers brutally beat him as he called for his mother. The five officers were fired on Jan. 20, and were arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping, assault and misconduct on Jan. 26.
Dorsey, 39, of South Orange, was shot and killed by a Newark police detective just after midnight on Jan. 1, 2021. On Jan. 26, the New Jersey attorney general’s office announced that the state grand jury had voted not to file any criminal charges in relation to Dorsey’s death. Dorsey, who was unarmed, was shot after colliding with the police detective, whose weapon was drawn due to two other individuals who allegedly had firearms.
Government and law enforcement officials throughout New Jersey have condemned Nichols’ death.
“We are horrified by the video footage released earlier today that showed Memphis police officers brutally and inhumanely beating Tyre Nichols,” Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver said in a joint statement following the release of the incident footage. “When those sworn to uphold the law violate the rights of those they serve, there must be accountability. While we are gratified that the officers involved were immediately relieved of duty and swiftly charged for their roles in Tyre’s death, that does not reverse the injustice that was done. Tyre should be alive today.
“All Americans deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity by law enforcement, particularly black Americans, who for far too long have received disparate treatment by our criminal justice system. Although the vast majority of police officers serve honorably, there are a select few who abuse their positions of power and unjustly tarnish the reputation of a profession dedicated to protecting the public,” they continued. “In New Jersey, we have enacted meaningful police reforms, including revamping use-of-force standards, ensuring independent investigations in police-involved shootings, requiring all officers to wear body cameras and allowing for the decertification of officers who commit serious misconduct. And we are committed to deepening this work. We extend our deepest sympathies to Tyre’s family, along with our hopes for justice and accountability.”
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin also commended New Jersey’s efforts to prevent and, if needed, prosecute extreme force from police. He pledged to continue working in this area.
“Tyre Nichols should be alive today — not just as a matter of principle or justice, but as a matter of human dignity. The footage our nation watched tonight was unconscionable. Law enforcement officers are faced with incredible responsibilities often under the most challenging circumstances, and nearly all dispatch those duties with respect for the lives and safety of those they serve. There is no excuse for this violence — it erodes the trust between community and law enforcement that people across this state tirelessly work to build and strengthen. We will not let violence win, and we will redouble our efforts to maintain and grow the strong partnerships we have built,” Platkin said on Jan. 27.
“Tonight, I share the grief felt by people across this state and country. I have spoken with many of our residents who are in pain right now, and I know this murder rips the scabs off wounds that have hardly healed. In New Jersey, law enforcement will be part of that healing. We will listen to our residents, and we will continue on the path towards justice together,” he continued. “As our state’s chief law enforcement officer, as a father and as a human being, my heart is with the people who loved and lost Mr. Nichols. And my prayer is that we end this violence, so no one else ever experiences the profound sadness of a mother who cannot hug her son tonight and a son who will grow up not knowing his father.”
Philip R. Sellinger, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, offered his support to the law enforcement community prosecuting the officers who killed Nichols.
“Like so many around the country, we are deeply disturbed by the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Tyre Nichols. Shortly after his death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Tennessee and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division opened a criminal civil rights investigation. We express support for our colleagues who are working hand in hand with the FBI and other law enforcement partners,” Sellinger said Jan. 27. “We have no doubt that their investigation will be thorough and methodical, and they will make decisions based on the facts and the law. In addition to the federal investigation, several officers are now facing prosecution for state charges. We appreciate the significant public interest in this matter. We want to make clear that the U.S. attorney’s office respects the right of all people to assemble and protest peacefully. As Tyre Nichols’ family has urged, we urge that any protests remain peaceful and nonviolent.”
Sellinger reminded residents that those who believe they may have been victims of civil rights violations may file a complaint with the U.S attorney’s office at tinyurl.com/58twj2xw or call the U.S. attorney’s office civil rights hotline at 855-281-3339.
Photos by Javon Ross