On January 7, around 8:30 p.m., Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, was savagely beaten in the middle of the street by five police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, as he was returning home from work. The reason for stopping him was, allegedly, reckless driving, but the images reveal a cruelty that lasted three minutes of a beating after which Nichols remained unconscious in the hospital for several days. He died as a result of hemorrhages on January 10.
The images provoke both revulsion and stupefaction at the arbitrariness of the violence. Two years after the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman in the middle of the street in Minneapolis, the United States is once again faced with the evidence of police forces that act without the minimum limits required in any other democracy in the world. Hundreds of people die each year after an encounter with the police, disproportionately black citizens. The origin problems that feed this perverse cycle are multiple, such as the culture of weapons, the demagogic use of citizen security and the jurisprudence that grants de facto impunity to agents.
The Nichols tragedy, however, brings new nuances. All five agents are also black. Although the data leads to the temptation to eliminate the racist element, it is legitimate to doubt whether a white man would have been treated in the same way. Racism is a structural factor of violence, not just personal. But the main novelty is the actions of the authorities. In just 20 days after the death, the cops have been fired with a bang, the police chief has declared herself horrified, and the District Attorney’s Office has filed charges for second-degree murder and other crimes, which could take them the rest of their lives. to jail. There have been no hot cloths, no calculated waits to see if things calm down. At the federal level, the case has revived the so-called George Floyd law, which tries to establish federal limits on police action and which is stuck in Congress by the Republican opposition. It would undoubtedly be a positive development, but general legal reform from Washington will hardly prevent these situations. The management of citizen security is a responsibility of the municipalities and the casuistry is infinite.