During a Wednesday afternoon funeral for Tyre Nichols, who was beaten to death by Memphis police officers, heavy-hitting speakers blasted the cops involved, members of Congress, and the country's failure-once again-to protect Black lives from death at the hands of police.
In a brief but moving address, Nichols' mother RowVaughn Wells echoed the numerous calls-including from Vice President Kamala Harris earlier in the service-for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
"We need to get that bill passed, because if we don't-that blood-the next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands," she said.
The bill, stuck in Washington, D.C.'s gridlock politics, would forbid the use of chokeholds, ban no-knock warrants, end the "qualified immunity" of officers from civil suits, and create a registry of so-called bad cops, among other provisions.
In his eulogy, the reverend Al Sharpton also delivered biting criticism of the five Black officers charged with murdering Nichols and recalled Dr. Martin Luther King's death on a balcony in Memphis decades earlier.
"What is so personal to me is that five Black men, who wouldn't have had a job in a police department, would not ever be thought of to be in an elite squad, in the city that Dr. King lost his life-not far away from that balcony you beat a brother to death" said Sharpton.
As he continued, cheers rose to a roar from those in attendance in Tennessee.
"There's nothing more insulting and offensive to those of us who fight to open doors that you walk through those doors and act like the folks we had to fight for to get you through them doors," he said.
Nichols was driving home on the night of Jan. 7 when he was pulled over by members of the Memphis Police Department's SCORPION unit.
The brutal beating by cops that followed-laid bare in shocking body-cam and pole-cam video that showed him crying out for his mother-reignited protests and nation-wide calls to end police brutality. Nichols died three days later from his injuries.
"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," said Vice President Harris, one of the first invited to speak at the funeral. "Yet we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today."
Harris also demanded Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
"Let our memory of Tyre shine a light, a path toward peace and justice," added Harris, as Wells emotionally applauded her calls for police reform.
Before Harris' speech, images of Nichols' smile flashed across screens as a soloist sang soaring notes with lyrics such as "everything is gonna be alright" and "fight on."
The memorial began at 1 p.m. local time after a weather delay, and was slated to include choir music, prayers, and scriptures, as well as a call for action from the family's legal team. Freezing weather in Memphis caused flight cancelations and travel delays of even family lawyer Benjamin Crump, according to The Washington Post.
Multiple looming figures in politics and social justice were present, most notably Harris and Sharpton. Family members of other Black Americans killed by police-like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jalen Randle-also gathered to remember the Fed Ex worker, photographer and skateboarding aficionado.
Randle's mother, Tiffany Rachal, was one of the first voices to lead off the funeral, extending her condolences to Nichols' mother and singing.
"We are fighting together," she said before dedicating a song to Wells.
Five of the Memphis cops shown on horrific body camera footage-Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith-have been fired and charged with murder and kidnapping.
Two other officers were relieved of duty, including Preston Hemphill, who is white, according to the Memphis Police Department.
Two emergency medical technicians and another fire department employee have also been fired.
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