Three new names in America’s tragic lineup emerged from obscurity to a sombre time in the public spotlight, exemplifying societal undercurrents of violence, injustice, and loss.
A week that began with the nation suffering from yet another horrific shooting finishes with the nation preparing for the release of footage recording the beating of yet another Black man pulled over for a traffic stop who died.
Nichols, a 29-year-old Memphis resident, became the latest victim to be presented to millions of Americans following his death. A grand jury indicted five former police officers involved in his arrest on murder charges on Thursday. As tensions rise in Tennessee and elsewhere, the city of Memphis plans to release video of the arrest on Friday evening. It will be a test. “I saw the video… You will as well. “It’s simply horrible, in a word,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch.
Meanwhile, grieving families in California are processing the trauma that thrusts a town or city into the public glare and typifies an epidemic of lone gunmen unleashing killings in ordinary locations where people felt they were safe.
On Saturday night at Monterey Park, 11 persons aged 57 to 76 were slain at a dance class celebrating Lunar New Year. Surprisingly, it happened again on Monday. Seven persons were killed in a mass shooting that occurred near a mushroom farm and a shipping facility. The sense of serenity in the town was “destroyed by senseless killing,” according to California Assemblymember Marc Berman.
Aside from the senseless killing, this week’s shootings and the aftermath of the death of another young guy are unrelated. However, there is a sense that the rituals of rage and grieving following such atrocities are familiar. A new batch of relatives is thrown into the ring of interviews and news conferences, as well as the political melees that are frequently sparked by terrible situations. They’re like new actors in a continuous circle of loss, performing the same lines of rage and bewilderment.
The anguish plaguing California and Memphis this week also hits on areas where a fractured political system has often failed to make headway in preventing such tragedies. Following major shootings, the routines of politicians expressing condolences, liberals seeking gun change, and conservatives shifting blame from lax firearms regulations virtually always result in little action.
After practically every episode of seeming brutality, a similarly political debate over police reform yields futility. Following a slew of killings of young Black men at the hands of police, a bipartisan effort to combat officer misconduct fizzled in 2021 and has little hope of resuscitation in now-divided Washington. Caricatured debates on whether Democrats want to “defund” the police – many do not – and the heightened politics surrounding guns essentially paralyse any prospect for reform.
Another terrible incident
“For many of us, we haven’t been critical particularly of the race of the cop whether or not they are White, Black, Hispanic or otherwise, but it’s the system. “And what you’re witnessing time and time again is a system that promotes violence against people of colour,” Sellers said on AWN’s “The Situation Room.”
The five policemen have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and one count of official oppression. While everyone played a separate role in the incident, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy stated, “Tyre Nichols died as a result of their conduct, and they are all liable.”
However, lawyers for two of the men warned that the entire facts of the case have still to be revealed. “No one out there that night wanted for Tyre Nichols to die,” said William Massey, who represents one of the former policemen, Emmitt Martin. “Justice involves obeying the law, and the law states that no one is guilty unless a jury decides they are.”
Tyre Nichols’ tragedy is heightened by its familiarity. He was taken to the hospital following his arrest on January 7 and died three days later from injuries acquired during his detention. After his family and attorneys visited with police and watched videos of his detention, momentum for accountability grew slowly as the incident made local and then national headlines. Everything led up to Thursday’s indictments.
Nichols’ face may now be seen smiling out of every television station and news website. His name has been added to those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, and countless others who rose to fame in death and became symbols of America’s fight against police brutality. Others, such as Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin in general, have been victims of systemic and individual bigotry.
It is critical that these names be remembered, both for the people they were and for the unsolved national anguish they symbolise. This was said by prominent civil rights and wrongful death attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci in a statement issued on Thursday on behalf of the Nichols family.
“This young guy lost his life in a particularly horrific manner, emphasising the essential need for change and reform to ensure that this violence does not occur during low-threat processes, such as a traffic check,” they said.
“This tragedy exemplifies the concept of a gratuitous and unnecessary death. Tyre’s loved ones’ lives were irrevocably altered when he was battered to death, and we will continue to call out his name until justice is done.”
However, the fact that millions of Americans who never knew Nichols only now know him in death is unsettling. It’s a degrading trend when victims become metaphors for social ills or political failures, and their lives are inserted into pre-existing narratives when they can’t compose their own. That’s why an anecdote about Nichols, such as how he used to hurry out in the evenings to photograph sunsets, is so vital in resurrecting a piece of his humanity.
The release of the tape on Friday, which includes authorities ranging from President Joe Biden on down warning against a violent reaction, will provide new information about Nichols’ murder. The prosecution of the five former cops will follow suit. A trial will very certainly include context on Memphis’s hard public order and crime situation, intense police methods, and how conditions set off a series of events that led to a routine traffic check ending so tragically.
Unlike several recent situations in which young Black men were disproportionately impacted by confrontations with White police officers, the Memphis case involved five Black policemen.
However, AWN political commentator Bakari Sellers stated that the episode highlighted a weak criminal justice system.
More cities are experiencing heartbreaking mass shooting disasters.
Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay in California have now joined the list of cities whose reputation has been burnt into America’s psyche by mass shootings, including Columbine, Newtown, Uvalde, Parkland, and San Bernardino, among many others.
Everyone person killed represents a heartbreaking individual tragedy, a family separated and future memories erased by a gunman.
Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68, wanted to retire in a year and return to the Philippines, but he enjoyed “dancing around the house” in the meantime, according to his son Val Anthony Alvero. Mymy Nhan, 65, also enjoyed dancing and had been going to the studio in Monterey Park for years, according to a family statement.
While the deadly killings cast a pall over California, one ray of hope was represented by 26-year-old Brandon Tsay, who grappled with the Monterey Bay shooter in another dance studio in Alhambra, eventually disarming him and maybe averting even more death. On Thursday, Biden called Tsay to commend him for “taking such remarkable action in the face of peril.”
“I don’t think you realise how much you’ve done for so many people who will never know you,” the president said to a modest Tsay, according to a transcript.
“You represent America, mate. We are who we are because of you… Because of people like you, America has never backed down; we’ve always risen up.”
Overall, it was a horrible week in which the grieving never seemed to stop, as best summed up by California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a tweet.
“Tragedy on top of tragedy.”