Tyre Nichols funeral: Kamala Harris delivers fiery speech calling for justice

US Vice President and family speak at memorial for black man who died after Memphis police beating

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US Vice President Kamala Harris and the family of Tyre Nichols, the unarmed black motorist who died after police officers beat him in Memphis, Tennessee, paid tribute to the young father at his emotionally charged funeral on Wednesday.

Mr Nichols “should be here today”, Ms Harris said during brief remarks.

“Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God when they hold that child, that that body and that life will be safe for the rest of his life,” she said.

“Yet we have a mother and a father who mourn.”

Mr Nichols, 29, died on January 10, three days after he was beaten by Memphis policemen during a traffic stop for what they claimed was reckless driving.

Funeral held for Tyre Nichols

Funeral held for Tyre Nichols

Five of the officers involved in the incident, who were also black, were arrested for second-degree murder and other charges. Additional officers and emergency workers have either been fired or suspended.

“He was a beautiful person and for this to happen to him, it's just unimaginable,” Mr Nichols's mother, RowVaughn Wells, said at the funeral held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

“I truly believe that my son was sent here on assignment from God … now that his assignment is done, he's been taken home.”

Ms Harris was invited to the funeral after speaking with Ms Wells and Rodney Wells, Mr Nichols's stepfather, on Tuesday.

The Vice President said police officers were not serving community safety when they arrested Mr Nichols.

“This violent act was not in pursuit of public safety,” she said.

“Was he not also entitled to the right to be safe? So when we talk about public safety, let us understand what it means. In its truest form: Tyre Nichols should have been safe.”

Ms Harris also called on US Congress to pass the George Floyd Police Act, which President Joe Biden's administration has long requested.

Memphis Police release footage of officers beating Tyre Nichols

Memphis Police release footage of officers beating Tyre Nichols

“We need to get that bill passed because the blood of the next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands,” Ms Wells said.

Relatives of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and George Floyd, whose deaths sparked the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, were also in attendance.

As the service began, a group of singers and people beating African drums proceeded to the front of the church where Mr Nichols’s black casket was draped in a large white bouquet.

“We love you, Tyre,” the performers sang and the congregation joined in.

Rev Al Sharpton delivered a passionate eulogy for Mr Nichols.

“If that man had been white, you wouldn't have beaten him like that that night,” Rev Sharpton said of the officers.

“We understand that there's a need to deal with crime, but you don't fight crime by becoming criminals yourself.

“You don't stand up to thugs in the street becoming thugs yourself. You know, fake gangs by becoming five armed men against the unarmed man. That ain't the police, that's punks.”

The city also disbanded the so-called Scorpion Unit, a special police force whose members were involved in the beating.

Video released by the city showed Mr Nichols being stunned, punched in the face, kicked and beaten with a baton. He repeatedly shouted for his mother, who lived only two blocks away, as he was being beaten.

The video ended with Mr Nichols handcuffed and sitting against a police car as he waited for almost 15 minutes to receive medical attention.

Human rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represents the Nichols family, described the altercation as a lynching.

“How can you say that this wasn't torture, what they had Mr Nichols endure?” Mr Crump told CNN.

“We have to call out the severity at which police officers engage with unarmed black citizens as nothing more than exactly what it is. It's a lynching.”

Mr Biden described the video as horrific and called for a transparent investigation.

“There are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a beloved child and young father,” he said.

Mr Nichols, father to a four-year-old boy, was born in Sacramento, California, but moved to Memphis in 2020.

Jamal Dupree, Mr Nichols's brother, on Tuesday night said he wished he could have been there to save him.

“I’ve been fighting my whole life and the one fight I needed to be here for, I wasn’t here,” Mr Dupree said.

Keyana Dixon, Mr Nichols's sister, attended a separate vigil on Monday night in Sacramento, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Updated: February 02, 2023, 6:23 AM