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Funeral service held for Tyre Nichols amid outcry over police brutality in US

Washington, Feb 2 (IANS) A funeral service for Tyre Nichols, an African-American man who died last month after being beaten by police officers, was held in Memphis amid an outcry over police brutality in the US.

The 29-year-old died in a hospital on January 10, three days after a traffic stop by Memphis police, reports Xinhua news agency.

On January 27, he Memphis Police Department released four graphic videos, totalling more than an hour of footage, showing the five former police officers, who are also black, brutally beating the victim.

At the funeral service on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris told the Nichols family that Americans “mourn with you” while calling for police reform.

“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,” she said.

“Yet we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today.”

She called Nichols’ death “an act of violence at the hands and the feet of people who have been charged with keeping them safe”, and called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

American civil rights figure Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for Nichols, saying that they will continue to fight for justice and “won’t stop until we hold you accountable and change the system”.

He said Nichols was murdered in the same city as Dr Martin Luther King Jr 55 years before.

There’s “nothing more insulting and offensive” than police officers beating their “brother” to death, he said.

“If that man had been white you wouldn’t have beat him like that that night,” he said, pledging to never let Nichols’ “memory die”.

The five police officers involved in the death of Nichols were fired after an internal investigation and are facing criminal charges, including second-degree murder.

The Memphis Police Department’s so-called SCORPION unit, to which the fired officers belonged, has been permanently deactivated.

The fallout has also reached other agencies, including the Memphis Fire Department, which fired three emergency medical technicians.

Two additional Memphis police officers have recently been relieved of duty.

“My brother was robbed of his life, his passions, and his talents, but not his light,” Keyana Dixon, a sister of Nichols’, said on Wednesday.

“I see the world showing him love and fighting for his justice,” Dixon said through tears. “But all I want is my baby brother back.”

The death of Nichols came nearly three years after the police murder of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after an encounter with Minneapolis police, during which white officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes while making an arrest with other colleagues.

The police killing of Floyd sparked outrage and protests across the United States in the summer of 2020 against police brutality and systemic racism.

Police killed 1,186 people in the US last year, according to Mapping Police Violence.

African-Americans were 26 per cent of those killed by police in 2022 despite accounting for only 13 per cent of the population.