Activists call on Minnesota lawmakers to be ‘example of change’ following video release of police beating Tyre Nichols

Two-and-a-half years after Minneapolis led a rallying cry against police brutality following the murder of George Floyd, activists Saturday asked for change as the nation again works to digest a Black man’s fatal encounter with law enforcement; this time, the beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers.

Twin Cities activists held a press conference to discuss the body camera footage of the incident released Friday night and to “stand in solidarity with the people of Memphis and Mr. Nichols’ family.” Leaders with Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), Minnesota Justice Coalition and six other related organizations took to the podium to say they want to see a change to laws surrounding policing. They also say, Minnesota has an obligation to set that example.

“People want to believe that there is something you can do to prevent yourself from being killed in these situations. It appears that Mr. Nichols did just about everything that you could do to comply, and yet it did not save him,” CUAPB president Michelle Gross said, opening up the dialogue.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR Minnesota, called Nichols’ death a “tax-paid murder.”

“We have to do something. We have been saying that since the murder of George Floyd,” he said.

Calls for change rang through the small room, from speaker after speaker, with raw, personal stories of lost loved ones.

“This is why change is needed in legislatures around the country to rein in an out-of-control system that will come to a neighborhood near you,” Johnathon McClellan, president of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, said.

Law enforcement in the U.S. killed at least 1,186 people in 2022, according to non-profit research group Mapping Police Violence, marking the deadliest year in the last decade, which is as long as the data has been tracked by the organization.

“We’re out here pleading for help. We’re begging for help. Move, move, move,” Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence founder Toshira Garraway said, calling on state government with increasing intensity.

Gov. Tim Walz on Twitter called the footage that shows the beating of Tyre Nichols “horrifying.”

“As we grapple with the pain of another Black life lost at the hands of law enforcement, we must recommit to stopping this pattern of violence — both in Minnesota and across the country,” the tweet read.

The organizations that gathered Saturday have been asking for the same legislative changes since 2020, Gross said.

“The bills that we’re asking for would do things like end qualified immunity, would create an independent investigatory and prosecutorial body for police deadly force incidents, would end the prohibition on civilian oversight in the state and would enable, you know, mental health crisis to be the primary response,” Gross said in an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS following the press conference.

“No one has even just talked about any of the bills that we brought forward. Bills such as making body camera footage available within 48 hours,” McClellan added.

Gross and McClellan plan to sit down with lawmakers as early as Monday about that package of police reform bills, they said.

Since George Floyd’s murder in 2020, Legislature has passed a series of police reforms, including:

  • New use of force reporting requirements
  • Banning choke-holds and warrior-style training
  • More training for police for dealing with people with mental health issues
  • Adding a state advisory committee with citizens on it to make recommendations to the Post Board

Despite these changes, efforts to end qualified immunity have not moved forward.