MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Live Updates on the funeral for Tyre Nichols (all times local):
Many mourners wiped away tears as Tyre Nichols ' sisters, brothers and parents shared their memories at the funeral of the Black man who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers.
Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, said her faith has given her some comfort in the weeks since his killing.
“The only thing that’s keeping me going is that I truly believe that my son was sent here on assignment from God. And I guess now his assignment is done. He’s gone home,” Wells said through tears.
Earlier in the service Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris took to the stage to urge Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, aimed at stamping out police brutality. Nichols' mother made a heart-wrenching plea for its passage.
“That George Floyd bill, we need it passed," Wells said. "We need to take some action because there should be no other child that should suffer the way my son — and all the other parents here have lost their children — we need to get that bill passed. Because if we don’t, that blood — the next child that dies — that blood is going to be on their hands.”
LaToya Yizar, who says her mother was Nichols' godmother, read a poem she wrote invoking words Nichols said as police officers beat him just minutes from his home, titled, “I’m Just Trying To Go Home”
The Rev. Al Sharpton has told mourners at the funeral of Tyre Nichols, that the Black man's death after being beaten by Black police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, reminded him of the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.
King was shot and killed on April 4, 1968, in Memphis where he had been supporting a sanitation workers' strike after two workers were killed by a malfunctioning truck. Most of the strikers were Black.
Sharpton said that earlier Wednesday he took his daughter Ashley to the spot where King was shot at the former Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum.
He then directly addressed Nichols' mother and stepfather, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells.
“The reason why, Mr. and Mrs. Wells, what happened to Tyre is so personal to me, 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,” Sharpton said. “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.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton has delivered a rousing sermon at the funeral of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died after he was beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee, this month.
Sharpton said some police officers act as if they are above the law.
“You don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself," he said. "You don’t stand up to thugs in the street 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.”
Five Black officers were fired following Nichols' death and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Sharpton warned that despite the race of those five officers, they were still motivated by racism, saying: “If that man had been white, you wouldn’t have beat him like that.”
Harris, who got a standing ovation as she approached the stage, said the police beating of Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, leading to his death three days later, should never have happened. She said the police are supposed to protect the public.
"This violent act was not in pursuit of public safety,” Harris said.
She continued: “Tyre Nichols should have been safe.”
She went on to call for legislative action, saying the president supports the bill.
"As vice president of the United States, we demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Joe Biden will sign it. And we should not delay and we will not be denied. It is nonnegotiable.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton says other families who understand the pain of Tyre Nichols' family are attending the Black man's funeral in Memphis, Tennessee.
The pastor of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church is urging mourners to comfort the family and celebrate the life of Tyre Nichols.
Vice President Kamala Harris was seated at the front of the church for the funeral service in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday. The Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights attorney Ben Crump were also in attendance.
Pastor J. Lawrence Turner said Nichols was “a good person, a beautiful soul, a son, a father, a brother, a friend, a human being, gone too soon, denied his rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, denied the dignity of his humanity, denied the right to see the sun set another day, to embrace his mother, hang out with his friends, hold his child, and the right to grow old.”
Nichols was brutally beaten by Memphis police officers this month just minutes from him home and died three days later.
Mourners also watched a montage of photos taken by Nichols, who was an avid photographer, beginning with a slide bearing his own words: “My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens.
The funeral service for Tyre Nichols began Wednesday afternoon with a choir walking to the front of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church singing “We love you Tyre.”
The choir amassed behind Nichols' black casket, which was draped in a large white bouquet.
After Nichols' family filed into the church, the Mississippi Boulevard Celebration Choir sang “Strength Like No Other,” bringing most of the mourners in attendance to their feet.
“My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens,” reads one quote laid over a photo of Nichols standing in an open field.
Several pages of the program also have text laid over sunset photos Nichols took. Nichols’ family said photography was one of his hobbies, and he had been taking photos of the sunset before his encounter with police Jan. 7.
Two bridges in Memphis will be illuminated in the colors of the San Francisco 49ers football team starting at sundown Wednesday in honor of Tyre Nichols, Mighty Lights Memphis tweeted.
Nichols grew up in Sacramento and was a fan of the NFL team based in California. Lights in the team's colors, red and gold, will be shined on the Big River Crossing bridge and the Hernando de Soto bridge, the Mighty Lights group said.
According to the Mighty Lights website, Memphis Bridge Lighting, Inc. was formed as a nonprofit organization to use lighting on the bridges to promote activity on the city's riverfront and provide a “unifying symbol” for Memphis residents.
— Tyre Nichols remembered as beautiful soul with creative eye
— A timeline of events in Tyre Nichols arrest, death
— Black parents, children have ‘the talk’
— Tyre Nichols case shows officers still fail to intervene
— Memphis beating video puts spotlight on first police account
— Grizzlies, other NBA teams speak out on Tyre Nichols’ death
The service was delayed until 1 p.m. Central Standard Time due to inclement weather. An ice storm warning was in effect for Memphis into Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Nichols, a Black man, was beaten earlier this month by Memphis police officers during a traffic stop and later died. Five Black officers involved in the beating have been fired, as well as three fire department workers who responded to the scene. Two other police officers have been suspended.
Vice President Kamala Harris is planning to attend the celebration of life. Rev. Al Sharpton will give the eulogy and attorney Ben Crump will also speak.