Community vigil honors Tyre Nichols' life, hoping for change

The death of Tyre Nichols is being felt all across the country, after the 29-year-old father died in police custody.

Nichols was beaten by five Memphis police officers following a traffic stop for alleged reckless driving. He was eventually taken to the hospital in critical condition, then died from his injuries just days later.

Community members mourning his loss gathered at Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle, for a vigil in his honor.

"Tyre should be alive, there’s no other way to say it," said Reverend Dr. Kelle Brown, who led the vigil. "Tyre didn’t have to be a sacrifice, as some have suggested, to heighten the awareness for police brutality." 

The church became a sanctuary, where people from all backgrounds were able to express their feelings as family.

"We are here because we are trying to make sense of what is absolutely nonsense," Dr. Brown said.

"We’ve been gathering like this for 159 years," Reverend Harriet Walden said. "55 years ago, Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis by white racists—55 years ago—and here we are, 55 years later."

She acknowledged the pain and grief that mothers who have lost a loved one like Tyre are feeling.

The community came together to honor the late father with poems and songs.

"Allow for our broken hearts to mean something," Dr. Brown said.

However, the pain and trauma was evident in tonight's gathering, according to resident Tana Yasu.

"It's very sad, tragic and eye-opening at the same time, even after all we went through with George Floyd and all of the so-called reimagining; the change that we were hoping for is still not here yet," Yasu said.

The death hit especially hard in the Seattle community, which took to the streets to protest Nichols' death—reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter march following the police killing of George Floyd, and other protests after the deaths of Manny Ellis and Charleena Lyles.

One of the issues troubling many: why no one stepped up to help.

"He was beaten to an inch of death, he was visibly broken and dying," Dr. Brown said.

While she thanked the Chief of Police in Memphis for his swift action firing and criminally charging the police officers involved, Dr. Brown said it's only distance that separate Memphis and Seattle.

"Seattle is not so far away from Memphis, miles may separate us, but we have the same trauma, the same terror, and the same challenges," Brown said.

However, she says it's the pain which she hopes will help lead to change.

"I pray that you and I will be responsible for the policies that will change this world," Dr. Brown said.

"There is hope that we can come together and be a place where change can occur, and that we can be a beacon on the hill that people will look to us to say, 'Here's how you do policing right,'" Reverend Elizabeth Gordon said.

Those in attendance lit candles in Tyre's honor a symbol of justice and a light of remembrance.

READ MORE: A timeline of events in the Tyre Nichols case

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"Do not allow for this young man to have died in vain," Dr. Brown said.