On February 1, 2023, Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man was laid to rest in his hometown of Memphis. He died from injuries sustained during a violent encounter with the Memphis police which has shocked the U.S. conscience. So much so that even the Memphis chief of police admitted that the officers’ behavior was “heinous, reckless, and inhumane.” Several police officers have subsequently been charged with murder, kidnapping, assault, and misconduct for their actions and discharged from their posts. We hope that the judicial system will take its course and hold each of them accountable.
We know that the consistent reports of violence towards citizens by police cannot be sustained. We support the words of Tyre Nichols’ mother Row Vaughn Wells, when she said at his funeral “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 that lost their children” have.
We pray for Mr. Nichols’ mother, family and friends. We recognize that there are members of our law school community themselves who may fear that engagements with the police could end in violence. As the national perspective bends towards increased accountability for police misconduct, we join the chorus of voices demanding that violence towards citizens immediately stop. Those who are expected to protect and serve the public must be held to a standard that prohibits unjust harm and killings.
Protests in support of Mr. Nichols’ family and against the police officers whose violence resulted in his death have passed by the doors of our law school. As a law school in Atlanta, where the nation fixed its gaze a couple of weeks ago to celebrate the birth of Atlanta’s native son, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are keenly aware of Memphis as the site of where he was murdered. This juxtaposition helps frame the decades-long fight for social justice and civil rights work to end police violence against citizens as necessary, but incomplete.
As importantly, we have students, faculty, staff and alumni in our community that are from the State of Tennessee and Memphis in particular. For those members of our community, please know we are here to support you and recognize the pain you may be going through.
We must rally together to support all those in our community affected by Mr. Nichols’s death, and one another in general. We know that Tyre Nichols, Mya Hall, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Miriam Carey, Trayvon Martin, Aiyana Jones, Tamir Rice and many others have lost their lives far too soon. We want to make sure their lived experiences continue to inform our own pursuit for a more fair and just society.
For our students, we want to encourage them to please continue to be mindful of your mental health. Please take advantage of resources provided by the law school, should you need them.