Statement on the Murder of Tyre Nichols

Social Change stands in solidarity with Tyre Nichols’ family and community. Tyre was a beloved father, son, and friend with an incredible passion for skateboarding and photography. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. Instead, Memphis Police officers brutally beat Tyre to death after a traffic stop.

The murder of Tyre Nichols epitomizes how moderate police “reforms” will never keep Black lives and communities safe. The Memphis Police Department—led by a Black woman police chief as of 2021—prides itself on fulfilling the #8CantWaitCampaign, which includes requiring officers to intervene when other cops are using excessive force. Five of the Memphis police officers who killed Tyre were Black and wore body cameras. Yet no amount of reform can change the reality that policing, as a direct descendant of slave patrols, is a critical tool of state-sanctioned violence used to protect capital and uphold white supremacy.

Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many cities preferred to adopt similar police “reforms” over widespread calls to defund the police. And yet, police violence in the U.S. has only escalated. Police killed a record high of at least 1,192 people in 2022. On January 18, police murdered forest defender Tortuguita, the first-ever climate activist killed by U.S. police. Tortuguita had been tirelessly organizing to #StopCopCity—the construction of a 300-acre militarized police compound that would destroy Atlanta’s largest remaining green space. These murders are not just individual acts of violence from a few “bad apples”; rather, they all derive from the same system of policing that is founded on and committed to violence towards Black lives.

Even worse, many of our elected leaders have doubled down on increasing the size and power of the police state. Most American cities, including New York’s own cop mayor, have continued raising police department budgets while defunding critical public resources such as public schools and libraries. Georgia law enforcement recently charged 19 #StopCopCity protesters with “domestic terrorism,” adding to a broader trend of criminalizing protest.

The safest communities in the U.S. do not have the most cops; they have the most resources. We echo the demands of DeCarcerate Memphis for greater transparency, ending the use of unmarked police cars, and removing cops from traffic stops, among others. We invite all who are able to donate to Tyre Nichols’ family. Further, Social Change will continue to use our platform to push for dismantling our racist police system and building an affirmative, life-saving vision of public safety.

Rest in Power Tyre Nichols.