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Vigil held on Boston Common in response to police killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis

Protesters march down Tremont Street in Boston demanding police accountability following the release of video of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Protesters march down Tremont Street in Boston demanding police accountability following the release of video of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Scores of people gathered Friday evening for a vigil on Boston Common to mourn the police killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. Among them were Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, city officials and members of the Boston clergy.

The vigil began as authorities prepared to release video footage, including from police body cameras, of what an attorney for the Nichols family described as the savage beating of 29-year-old Nichols by police. Five officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder.

Attendees of the Boston vigil were gathered around the recently unveiled Embrace monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. It was one of many expected gatherings in response to Nichols' killing around the country.

Among those holding vigil was Jeraul Mackey of East Boston. Mackey said he came out for the opening of the Embrace memorial just a couple of weeks ago.

“And just thinking about how a monument for love, for nonviolence, has sort of now become this place where we gather to mourn another Black man,” Mackey said. “Taken from us way too soon at the hands of the police.”

Speaking to those gathered, Wu said that the city — and Boston Police — stand for the rights of Bostonians to be safe in the city.

“Especially to the Black and Brown men of Boston, you deserve to feel and to be safe,” Wu said. “You deserve to feel and to be safe in your cars and in your homes, in our streets, in our stores, the places where you work and live and celebrate. Please know that we see you.”

In a statement Friday, Gov. Healey called the killing "a betrayal of our basic humanity," and said the footage "will cause tremendous pain, for Tyre Nichols’ family, for Memphis, and for Black people forced to relive generational trauma caused by police brutality."

Massachusetts members of Congress also reacted to the killing of Nichols through statements and tweets, condemning the police brutality.

"True justice would mean Tyre would be with us today," said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley in a statement. " We must be bold and relentless in pursuit of true systemic change. Without it, there can be no healing nor justice. Our work continues."

Nichols died Jan. 10, three days after officers stopped Nichols for what they described as reckless driving. Police say he fled and was taken into custody after what they initially described as two "confrontations."

The Nichols family was shown the video footage before it was released publicly. Their attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said it shows "an unadulterated, unabashed, non-stop beating of this young boy for three minutes."

Police organizations in Boston reacted to the killing Friday with sadness and condolences for Nichols and his family. The Boston Police Department and Massachusetts State Police condemned the actions of the police involved in Nichols killing.

"Acting quickly to hold these officers accountable is imperative," aid Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox in a statement. "We must stay connected and committed to those we serve. True community oriented policing is about trust building and ensuring the values of the communities we serve are represented is all that we do. People who interact with law enforcement should feel understood and respected."

"...We unequivocally condemn the actions of the five former Memphis Police officers involved in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols earlier this month," said State Police. "The brutality alleged in these indictments, and supported by the evidence described by Tennessee authorities, represents clear criminality and an utter breach of the public trust."

After the Boston Common vigil, dozens of protesters gathered at Park Street to march downtown. Among them was Joe Tache of Roxbury, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“We’re glad to see that the officers were fired and charged… but we also know that far too little police murders result in convictions,” Tache said.

He believes taking to the streets is key to getting justice in these cases. The group is planning another protest Saturday in front of the State House.

Material from NPR was used in this report. Derek J. Anderson contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Jeraul Mackey’s name. We regret the error.

This article was originally published on January 27, 2023.


Simón Rios Twitter Reporter
Simón Ríos is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.



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