Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at Tyre Nichols’ funeral on Wednesday (Feb. 1) and included a stern message to the police who took the man’s life.
Yahoo! News reports that the 68-year-old civil rights activist performed a eulogy during the service and took the opportunity to condemn the five officers responsible for killing Nichols.
Sharpton labeled the act “offensive” to the Black men and women who marched for their rights to become law enforcement. As he eulogized the 29-year-old’s life, the reverend drew connections to the decades-long fight for Black civil rights and the shortcomings of law enforcement.
“The reason why, Mr. and Mrs. Wells, what happened to Tyre is so personal to me,” the reverend began. “Is that five Black men that wouldn’t have had a job in the police department, would not ever be thought of to be in an elite squad in the city that Dr. King lost his life, not far away from that balcony, you beat a brother to death.
“There’s nothing more insulting and offensive to those of us that fight to open doors that you walk through those doors and act like the folks we had to fight for to get you through them doors,” Sharpton added. “You didn’t get on the police department by yourself. The police chief didn’t get there by herself. People had to march and go to jail, and some lost their lives to open the doors for you, and how dare you act like that sacrifice was for nothing!”
As Sharpton continued, he began to talk about Nichol’s death at the hands of five Black men as a problem stemming from America’s systemic issues.
“The tape speaks for itself. They never asked this man for his license. Never asked for the car registration. Snatched him out of the car and began beating him. Nobody mentioned nothing about no girlfriend. Nobody mentioned nothing about — they started beating an unarmed man.
“In the city that they slayed the dreamer, what has happened to the dream? In the city where the dreamer lay down and shed his blood, you have the unmitigated gall to beat your brother, chase him down and beat him some more, call for backup and they take 20 minutes, and you watch him and you are too busy talking among each other, no empathy, no concern,” the Brownsville, NY-native asserted.
The Baptist minister began to direct his attention to the audience and reassure them that the men involved in the killing weren’t “the police.” He concluded that handling crime by “becoming a criminal” isn’t how policing should be done and needs to be changed.
“We understand that there are concerns about public safety. We understand that there are needs to deal with crime, but you don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself. You don’t stand up to thugs in the street [by] becoming thugs yourself. You don’t fight gangs by becoming five armed men against an unarmed man. That ain’t the police, that’s punks.”
The powerful eulogy arrives weeks after Memphis law enforcement brutally beat Tyre Nichols to death on Jan. 10, 2023.
Nichols was stopped for an alleged traffic violation and “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating” at the hands of the cops.
The five Black officers involved—Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Tadarrius Bean, and Justin Smith—were arrested after they were caught on camera taking the young man’s life.