The NYPD and violence prevention groups are preparing for possible protests in New York City after a video showing Memphis police beating a man who later died is released at 7 p.m. tonight.
Tyre Nichols, 29, died earlier this month, days after officers from a specialized Memphis Police Department unit beat him after pulling him over for reckless driving, according to local news reports. The video has not been shared publicly, but after a private viewing with Nichols’ family, civil rights attorney Ben Crump called the footage “appalling” and compared the incident to the 1991 police beating of Rodney King, which sparked days of unrest in Los Angeles.
“Unlike Rodney King, Tyre didn’t survive,” Crump said.
Communities across the country are preparing for demonstrations after the video’s release. Protests are planned for Friday evening in Times Square and Union Square in Manhattan. The NYPD said in a statement that it is monitoring the situation but did not share further details about its plans. The police department also held a briefing in advance of the video’s release with the city’s Crisis Management System, a group of community-based groups that work to prevent violence.
At an unrelated press conference on Friday morning, Mayor Eric Adams said the NYPD has been strategizing its response.
“They are fully prepared to allow New Yorkers to peacefully voice their concerns based on what’s the outcome,” he said.
Five Memphis officers have been indicted on multiple charges, including aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and second-degree murder — a rarity for police who kill someone. Historically, only a tiny percentage of officers who use deadly force have faced criminal charges.
Unlike other high-profile cases of police violence, the officers accused of beating Nichols are all Black. They have been dismissed from the department, and Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis has called their behavior “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”
Adams said he felt for Nichols’ family, having experienced police abuse when he was a child. And after spending years fighting for more diversity within the NYPD, he expressed his disappointment that Black officers had caused harm to another Black man.
“This just really hurt me personally,” he said, “because it was always my belief that diversifying our departments with different ethnic groups would allow us to have the level of policing that we all deserve.”
At least one protest is planned for Friday evening in Times Square. Civil liberties advocates are urging people to know their rights if they plan to demonstrate.
The NYPD has been criticized in the past for its use of violence during protests. Activists and some members of the City Council have called for the department to disband the Strategic Response Group, which responds to demonstrations and civil unrest, after clashes between police and the public during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests prompted hundreds of civilian complaints and lawsuits, including one from Attorney General Letitia James.
Members of the SRG were supposed to testify at a Council hearing earlier this week, but the meeting was postponed while litigation is pending. But the NYPD said it is committed to protecting New Yorkers’ rights to protest.
“The Department has examined, adapted and adjusted our response to protests and is prepared to protect the constitutional right to peaceful protest, and works to ensure public safety for every New Yorker exercising their First Amendment rights,” a spokesperson said.