A group of demonstrators protest outside a police precinct in response to the death of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers, in Memphis, Tennessee on Jan 29, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
Memphis, a city in the US state of Tennessee, disbanded on Saturday the special police unit whose officers fatally beat a young black man, after graphic videos of the incident sparked widespread shock and outrage.
The videos released on Friday, which show five officers repeatedly kicking and punching 29-year-old Tyre Nichols as he moans and calls out for his mother, triggered waves of criticism and calls for police reform.
The city in the southern United States announced on Saturday that it had deactivated the officers' special unit, known as SCORPION — short for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. The unit was launched in 2021 to reduce illegal activity by assigning more police to high-crime areas.
Demonstrators called for police reform as they gathered on Saturday afternoon in chilly rain in front of city hall, shouting "No justice, no peace!" and carrying signs with slogans such as "Justice for Tyre Nichols"
The five Memphis officers, all of whom are black, were charged with second-degree murder in the beating of Nichols, who died in a hospital on Jan 10, three days after being stopped by police on suspicion of reckless driving.
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Demonstrators called for police reform as they gathered on Saturday afternoon in chilly rain in front of city hall, shouting "No justice, no peace!" and carrying signs with slogans such as "Justice for Tyre Nichols".
Wei Nanzhi, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "Violent conflicts have intensified in the US in the past two years due to economic hardship and social disruption caused by COVID-19. This also leads to an increase in insecurity among police officers, so they tend to overreact in the face of conflict," Wei said.
A makeshift memorial is seen where Tyre Nichols was beaten by police and later died, at Bear Creek Cove and Castlegate Lane in Memphis, Tennessee on Jan 28, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
Despite nationwide calls for police reform and protests after George Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020, the number of people who died during interactions with police reached a 10-year high of 1,186 in 2022, according to the website Mapping Police Violence.
Wei said the fact that all five officers are black is "frightening and sad" and "shows that the black community in the US has somehow identified with and internalized the values that have been shaped by white supremacy for so long: that black people are dangerous".
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Therefore, the incident goes beyond police violence, Wei added.
Agencies contributed to this story.