Justice for Tyre Nichols

27 Jan, 23

Dear Friends,

Like many of you, I am struggling to find the words after the release of the video that shows Tyre Nichols being brutally beaten by five police officers in Memphis, TN. Some will bear witness to the video and others know the horror it contains without ever watching it. How do we heal wounds that cut deep across time, place, and memory? How do we seek justice for Tyre Nichols and protect others from brutality? In these moments of collective sorrow and outrage, we must come together in pursuit of justice, safety, and dignity for all.

When Black communities cry out in pain and anger, it is because we see ourselves in the children who now find themselves without a parent; or the mother weeping for her lost child who is reduced to their last moments on this earth; or in the faces of Tyre Nichols, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others whose lives were brutally ended on a day that started out like any other day. We know how fear and anxiety can take over when stopped by police because we’ve seen too many "routine" stops end in death even with the bodycams rolling. We’ve experienced our own unwarranted stops and unfounded suspicions that can lead to the loss of our freedom or our lives. This is part of the Black experience in America, and it takes a toll on our mental health, our lives, and our communities.

Across this country, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by our criminal justice system and police practices. Mass incarceration, stop and frisk policies, pretext stops, racial profiling, discriminatory drug laws, and broken-windows policing have ensnared multiple generations in an unequal justice system. Black people continue to be killed by police at a higher rate than other groups. In the nearly three years since George Floyd’s murder, the number of Black people killed by police has increased.

Police hold two of the greatest powers imaginable in this country–the power to curtail one's freedom through arrest and the power to use deadly force on behalf of the state. Given the power they wield over our fundamental rights to life and liberty in a broken system, police must be held to highest standards of accountability and justice. As long as accountability and equal justice remain elusive, communities will experience anguish, frustration, and distrust.

These moments that grip us as a nation and shock the conscience are not isolated incidents; they reflect the systemic injustices that shape our legal system and institutions in devastating ways. We must work together to equitably transform our justice system and policing practices to make our communities safer and answer the call for justice that has been echoing across this country for centuries. That’s what drives the work we’re doing in Harris County today and every day.


Rodney Ellis