The funeral of Tyre Nichols, a Black man fatally beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tenn., was marked by emotion, music and a sharp call to justice on Wednesday, including by Vice President Kamala Harris.
“This is a family that lost their son and their brother through an act of violence, at the hands and the feet of people who had been charged with keeping them safe,” Harris said at the service in Memphis.
With the families of other victims of police violence in attendance, Harris called for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a reform bill she co-authored as a senator and that stalled in Congress.
“This violent act was not in pursuit of public safety. … When we talk about public safety, let us understand what it means in its truest form,” Harris said of the police action that killed Nichols. “Tyre Nichols should have been safe.”
Harris traveled to Memphis for the funeral, which was held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. She was not listed as a speaker on the program, but was invited up by civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton during the service.
“They told her she shouldn’t be here today, but the snow backed up and she’s here,” Sharpton said of Harris at the funeral, to applause.
The Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, pastor at the Memphis church, also called for lawmakers to act as he opened the speaking portion of the program.
“We have come with heavy hearts that can only be healed by the grace of God, full transparency, accountability and comprehensive legislative reform,” Turner said, noting that Wednesday marked the first day of Black History Month.
Former Atlanta Mayor and White House adviser Keisha Lance Bottoms, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Rep. Steve Cohen, a Republican who represents Memphis, were also present, Sharpton said.
The families of many other Black victims of police killings, including loved ones of George Floyd, Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor, came to the funeral as well, Sharpton said.
Nichols’ parents are scheduled to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech next week. The Congressional Black Caucus will meet Thursday with Biden and Harris.
Biden previously said he was “outraged” watching the video of the police violence that led to Nichols’ death.
The 29-year-old father liked skateboarding and photographing sunsets. He died three days after the brutal police beating on Jan. 7.
While lawmakers including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called for reform in the wake of the attack, Republicans including Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have actively resisted doing the same.
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