St. Louisans call for accountability after release of Tyre Nichols police beating video
Rasheen Aldridge has been speaking out against police officers killing Black people for nearly a decade.
And as he spoke at a vigil mourning Tyre Nichols’ death at the hands of Memphis police, the veteran of the Ferguson protest movement said having to keep coming out to similar events was exhausting.
“I’m tired. We’re tired,” said Aldridge, who is now a Democratic state representative and St. Louis aldermanic candidate. “I don’t know how many times we’ve been in the streets. I don’t know how many times we’ve had to cry. Or mourn. And yell. And scream. And grab this bullhorn and chant. And say the same things over and over and over again.”
More than 50 people gathered in front of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department headquarters shortly after Memphis officials released footage Friday night of five police officers beating the 29-year-old, who died three days later on Jan. 10.
Many of the mourners were, like Aldridge, participants in protests that arose after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson in 2014 — or when former St. Louis Police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of killing Anthony Lamar Smith in 2017.
And several speakers expressed frustration that they need to continue to gather year after year to decry police officer conduct. Reginald Garth of the activist group ExpectUs, for instance, asked the people gathered if they were “tired of being tired.”
Their response? An emphatic “yes.”
“The only thing that’s changed is the technology that records what happened,” Garth said. “And every last one of these incidents, these murders — they came at the hands of those who are to serve and protect.”
Added the Rev. Darryl Gray, one of the organizers of the rally: “It doesn’t matter that they’re Black police officers. Everybody is accountable. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
The fatal beating has prompted questions about whether racially diversifying police forces actually leads to a reduction in law enforcement officials killing Black people.
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, who like Aldridge was active in the Ferguson protest movement before her election, said in a statement that “the mere presence of Black officers does not stop policing from being a tool of white supremacy.”
“Charging the officers who brutalized Tyre is not enough,” Bush said. “Our country will continue to sanction the taking of Black lives with impunity until it embraces an affirmative vision of public safety and dismantles its racist policing system rooted in enslavement and government control. And let’s be clear: Merely diversifying police forces will never address the violent, racist architecture that underpins our entire criminal legal system.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said: "When we say that Black Lives Matter, it affirms our shared humanity that police mercilessly denied Tyre. Community trust is necessary to make our neighborhoods safer, and the incident in Memphis tragically reminds us that we still have a lot of work to do.”
Gray and other attendees at the vigil said that unless there are transformative changes around policing, they’ll continue to speak out.
“You know, the activism here is very real,” Gray said. “And people are passionate about criminal justice reform and police accountability and transparency. We've had our share of problems with police officers in this city. And so unfortunately, it took Tyre’s death for us to be here. But we're here.”