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Photos of Tyre Nichols’ funeral at Mississippi Boulevard Church in Memphis show a community jolted into activism

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Tyre Nichols’ funeral was held Wednesday at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.Tyre Nichols funeralA man arranges flowers around Tyre Nichols’ casket at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

The funeral of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Memphian who was brutally beaten by five police officers on January 7, was held Wednesday at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis. 

Nichols, who has a 4-year-old son, has been remembered by his family and friends as a lover of sunsets, photography, and skateboarding. 

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, on Tuesday, accepting her invitation to the funeral.

Rev. Al Sharpton, the Founder and President of the National Action Network (NAN), eulogized Nicholas and attorney Ben Crump delivered “a call to action” in a service led by Rev. J. Lawrence Turner.  

Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, and Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, also attended.

 

Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, known as “The BLVD”, is the first African American church in the city of MemphisTyre Nichols funeral churchThe sanctuary at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church is seen before the start the funeral service for Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

Nichols’ death jolted Memphis activists into action this month. The police department was also quick to launch an investigation into the officers involved. 

Within a week, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Justice had all launched investigations into the officers’ actions. 

On January 20, five officers — all of them Black and members of the SCORPION anti-crime unit — were fired. 

On Thursday— 28 hours before the release of the body camera video showing the brutal beating — they were charged with second-degree murder.

Their unit was disbanded on Saturday.

Two other officers have been on paid administrative leave since the start of the investigation, the Memphis police department announced this week.

Reporters and media were kept out of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church sanctuary on Wednesday, but the service was livestreamed for the public. 

Inclement weather delayed the service by a few hoursTyre Nichols funeralTerry Lawrence, of Memphis, Tenn., spreads ice melting salt around Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church where a funeral service for Tyre Nichols will be held after a delay due to weather on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Inclement weather caused travel delays to Memphis on Tuesday and Wednesday, prompting organizers to move the funeral from 10:30 a.m. CT to 1 p.m. CT. 

Snow and frigid 27-degree weather did not deter guests from showing up to the church to honor Nichols. 

At the start of the service on Wednesday, Rev. J. Lawrence Turner noted guests ventured out in “treacherous” conditions to make it to the funeral. 

The church is located in midtown, about a 10-minute drive from the Raines Road and Ross Road intersection where Nichols was pulled over by Memphis officers on January 7.

 

 

Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump escorted Tyre Nichols’ mother and step-father into the churchTyre Nichols funeral Ben Crump,Attorney Benjamin Crump, left, RowVaughn Wells, mother of Tyre Nichols, center, and stepfather Rodney Wells, center right, all arrive to the funeral service for Tyre Nichols, at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing the Nichols family. 

Crump has become the go-to lawyer for high-profile police killings in the US. 

On Tuesday, Crump’s office announced that Vice President Kamala Harris would attend the funeral. 

“Vice President Harris and Ms. Wells spoke exclusively, and during this emotional time, the Vice President was able to console Ms. Wells and even help her smile,” Crump said in a statement Tuesday. “Tyre’s parents invited Vice President Harris to the funeral tomorrow, and were pleased that she accepted their invitation.”

Tyre Nichols funeralFormer New Orleans mayor Mitchell Joseph Landrieu is recognized during the funeral service for Tyre Nichols.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

Politicians, activists, and families of police brutality victims filled the church for the funeral. 

Al Sharpton said that people who show up when the cameras are around need to support the family when the cameras are gone, too. 

 

RowVaughn Wells wept as she approached her son’s casketTyre Nichols funeralRowVaughn Wells cries as she and her husband Rodney Wells arrive for the funeral service for her son Tyre Nichols at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

RowVaughn Wells has addressed the community several times since her son died.

Each time, she asked that demonstrations stay peaceful in his honor.

Nichols’ was severely beaten less than 100 yards from his mother’s home. 

Speaking at Mt. Olive CME Church in downtown Memphis last week, Wells said that she had a pain in her stomach the night her son was beaten and she didn’t know why. Now, she believes it was her son’s pain that she was feeling. 

On Wednesday, Tiffany Rachal, mother of Houston police shooting victim Jalen Randle, sang a song at Nichols’ funeral. 

Before she did, she addressed Wells.

“My condolences go out to this mother. I’m here to offer my condolence to you. I pray that God bless you. I pray that God heal your broken heart,” she said. “We’re fighting together and all the mothers all over the world need to come together and stop all of this.” 

Vice President Kamala Harris demanded that Congress pass George Floyd Justice in Policing ActVice President Kamala Harris hugs RowVaughn Wells during the funeral service for Wells’ son Tyre Nichols.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke Wednesday at the funeral. 

After embracing RowVaughn Wells, Rev. Al Sharpton asked Harris to share a few words at the church.

“Mrs. Wells. Mr Wells, you have been extraordinary in terms of your strength, your courage, and your grace,” Harris said. “And we mourn with you, and the people of our country mourn with you.” 

 

Kamala Harris, Tyre Nichols funeralVice President Kamala Harris speaks during the funeral service for Tyre Nichols at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

Harris said that Nichols’ death was not in the service of public safety and that he should be alive.

“Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God when they hold that child that that body and that life will be safe for the rest of their life,” she said. “Yet we have a mother and a father here who mourn the life of a young man who should be alive today.”

Harris demanded that congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, saying President Biden will sign it. 

Rev. Al Sharpton spoke directly to the officers who beat NicholsTyre Nichols funeral Al SharptonRev. Al Sharpton stands in the front of the sanctuary at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tenn., before the funeral service for Tyre Nichols on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

Rev. Al Sharpton told the church he understood that “as a Black man” he understood why Tyre’s last words were calling for his mother. 

“He knew if he could just get mother, they would stop beating him, stop stomping on him,” Sharpton said.

The civil rights leader opened the first part of his eulogy with harsh words for the five officers who beat Nichols. 

He called their actions “offensive” in the city where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

“Five Black men who wouldn’t have had a job in the police department, would not have been thought of to be in an elite squad, in the city where Dr. King lost his life, he said.

Sharpton said that those officers and their Chief C.J. Davis never would have had a job if it wasn’t for activists fighting and marching on their behalf.

“How dare you act like that sacrifice was for nothing,” Sharpton said. “You ain’t in no New England state, you in Tennessee where we had to fight for you.” 

Sharpton also spoke of the importance of passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would end qualified immunity for officers.

Doing so would ensure ‘the same manners you have on the white side of town you have on the white side of town,” he said.

“Why do we want the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to pass, because then you’ll have to think twice before you beat Tyre Nichols,” he said. “If you don’t have qualified immunity, your wife would be telling you before you leave home, ‘behave yourself because we could lose the house, we could lose the car.'” 

Tyre Nichols funeralVice President Kamala Harris greets friends and family of Tyre Nichols.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool

Keyana Dixon, Nichols’ big sister, was 11 years older. 

She said that when she was growing up she had to watch her little brothers, sometimes taking them places she didn’t want to. 

Nichols, though, was easy to watch, she said. 

“He didn’t want anything other than to watch TV with a big bowl of cereal,” she said.

Dixon told the guests at the funeral she was devastated when she learned of her brother’s death, but even in death he didn’t lose his light.

“When my mother called me and said my baby brother was gone I lost my faith. I cried. I screamed at God, asking how could he let this happen. Then my tears turned to anger and anger turned to deep sorrow,” she said.

“Pain l never felt when those monsters murdered my baby brother, they left me completely heartbroken,” she added. “All I want is my baby brother back.”

 

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