CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Local protests and vigils continued throughout the day Sunday, following the release of video that graphically shows five Memphis police officers brutally beating and killing 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.
Charlotte NAACP branch marches in support of Tyre Nichols
Gatherings in Uptown Charlotte began with prayer worship at 3 p.m. at Marshall Park, continued with a candlelight vigil outside the Urban League of Central Carolinas at 6 p.m., and finished with another march through the city at 7 p.m.
More people attended the prayer worship and candlelight vigil than the planned protest, which saw only about 20 people.
“The world needed to see something different in the news today. The world needed to see some hope, some optimism, some empathy,” said HEAL Charlotte’s Gregory Jackson.
The video of Nichols’ calling out for his mother while being repeatedly punched and kicked has shaken the country, but for Sylvia Smith, it hit home. Her son, Sam Stitt, was killed in an unsolved homicide in 2019.
“I purposely did not watch that video for many days. I watched it this morning, and I got mad,” said Smith.
While Smith says she was angered by the actions of the Memphis officers, who are now all charged with his death, she’s even madder at the community.
“There are people all over this country honoring the life and legacy and making conversation about Tyre Nichols. I got mad because nobody’s talking about what’s going on for the rest of us,” she said.
Smith says institutions in our country face a systemic problem that runs even greater than the Tyre Nichols incident. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings says human error and bias runs so deep, even he can’t promise a fix.
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“If people are looking for a mistake-free policing country, you’re not going to get it,” said the chief. “I can create all kinds of policy. I can have all kinds of training in place. At the end of the day, these are human beings doing this job. They’re going to make mistakes. And when they make mistakes, they’re going to be held accountable for it.”
Still, Chief Jennings says he hopes what happened to Nichols does not overshadow the work that community leaders and institutions have already put in to start to rectify the deep-rooted issues. He acknowledged what happened to Nichols is “one of the most heinous acts of law enforcement” he’s seen in his 31-year career.
“I think we’re putting a lot of things in place, but at the same time, this is putting a huge hiccup in what we’re trying to do as a law enforcement community,” said Chief Jennings.