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In Memphis, protesters vent anger over police killing of Tyre Nichols

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's been nearly 24 hours since video was released depicting the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers. City officials and the family of Nichols have appealed for calm in the wake of the deeply disturbing video becoming public. So far, protests nationwide have been largely peaceful, but the anger and outrage remain. WKNO's Katie Riordan is in downtown Memphis and is with us now to tell us more. Katie, thanks so much for joining us.

KATIE RIORDAN, BYLINE: Hi. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So I understand that there were more protests planned today. What can you tell us?

RIORDAN: Yeah, that's right. I'm in downtown Memphis, where another protest has begun. People started gathering around 3 p.m. local time. Shortly after, dozens started marching. Some were carrying umbrellas, trying to stay dry as it started raining here. One protester, Casio Montez (ph), was using a bullhorn to vent his anger at the Memphis Police Department.

CASIO MONTEZ: And we're going to be out here every day if we have to. Whatever we got to do to make this happen is going to happen because it's been going on for too long. And we standing on being here for Tyre and for the rest of the victims from the MPD.

RIORDAN: Yesterday, protests shut down traffic on the I-55 bridge that crosses into Arkansas. But I should stress that these protests have been peaceful. I heard folks reminding each other that they were there for Nichols and for reform. And people are galvanized by this, and they say they're committed to see some sort of change.

MARTIN: You know, on that note, Katie, five officers, the five that we mentioned, have been fired and are facing charges. And on top of that, two sheriff's deputies have been relieved of duty and are being investigated for their conduct at the incident. So how are those decisions being received?

RIORDAN: Well, law enforcement are being credited for moving quickly with charges for the officers and releasing these graphic videos. But there are also a lot of other questions about what went on behind the scenes. For instance, people are asking why the sheriff's office may not have known until last night that some of their officers were there that night. Also, there are questions about two fire department employees who are also under investigation. We're still sorting through the footage, but it appears that two first responders did not take appropriate action with Nichols, who was clearly in distress. And there's also the matter of this special unit that these officers belonged to. The team has now been deactivated, and the police chief has called for an independent review.

MARTIN: So - go ahead.

RIORDAN: On another note, anybody who has watched the video is bound to be struck by the number of law enforcement officials that appeared on scene. The local district attorney who announced the original charges against the five officers said it doesn't preclude further action from his office.

MARTIN: And you've also been speaking to some local community leaders. Can you just tell us a little bit about what you've been hearing?

RIORDAN: That's right. I talked to Reverend J. Lawrence Turner, a well-known faith leader here in Memphis. He's been counseling his parishioners. They've told him they're sad, angry, in disbelief, really just looking for words. They say they see themselves in Tyre Nichols. Reverend Turner says he's urging people not to turn away from the pain.

J LAWRENCE TURNER: They're really a number of things I will say to them. The first of them is to give themselves space and grace to live with those emotions. God has made us human with emotions. And so we ought to give ourselves an opportunity to just live into what those emotions are.

RIORDAN: Reverend Turner went on to say that he wants people to channel their anger and energy into helping to bring about change. He said there's a real challenge, though, in tackling a police culture that normalizes violence.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, what about Tyre Nichols? I just like to hear a bit more about plans for remembering his life. Are those plans taking shape?

RIORDAN: Yes. There will be a funeral on Wednesday. It'll be at Reverend Turner's church. A large turnout is expected. He's anticipating all 2,500-some seats to be full. There have been numerous vigils for Nichols, and the family held a memorial service shortly after his death. Also, online, there are videos and photos circulating of a young man with an infectious grin described as somebody who was quick with a hug, a proud father. He loved his mom's cooking, skateboarding and even Memphis itself. His family and others want the general public to know who Tyree Nichols was to celebrate his life and to share the video of him doing the things that he loved, not the darker, more distressing images that we've all now seen.

MARTIN: That was WKNO's Katie Riordan. Katie, thank you so much for your reporting.

RIORDAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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