Local groups and activists renewed calls Saturday for police reform in Minnesota, reeling anew after seeing video released by the Memphis Police Department that showed officers fatally beating a 29-year-old Black man.
At a news conference held just minutes from the site where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in May 2020, Nekima Levy Armstrong said the Memphis video revealed that the need for police reform is not limited by the race of the officers involved.
"It does not matter that the officers were Black. In that matter, they were blue," Levy Armstrong said. "We need the attorney general, the governor and the Legislature to do their damn jobs — to pass the type of legislation that sends a message to the rest of the nation that the time for change is long overdue."
More than a dozen activists and group members gathered around Levy Armstrong nodded in agreement. They held signs reading "Justice for Tyre Nichols" and chanted "say his name" as they stood in support.
Many said that Minnesota could be a model for police reform across the nation. But Michelle Gross with Communities United Against Police Brutality, a volunteer group advocating against police misconduct, said Minneapolis has moved backwards by replacing its civilian review authority with an oversight commission that includes police.
"If we want to see more of these outrageous incidents, and more of the people's anger, keep it up, Minneapolis, because that's what you're doing," Gross said. "Until we commit to ending the systems, to addressing the problems, to making real legislation that addresses the issues of accountability, this problem will continue and grow as it has in the last two years since Mr. Floyd was killed."
Another local group, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, is planning to hold a protest at 2 p.m. Sunday outside the official residence of Gov. Tim Walz in St. Paul.
After Floyd's murder, Democrats at the State Capitol pushed for more civilian oversight and other reforms to policing, but faced opposition from Republicans who then controlled the state Senate.
With the DFL now in full control of state government, the party is in a position to go further. But it's not yet clear what reforms could move forward this year as many prominent Democrats in Minnesota and nationally have distanced themselves from calls to "defund the police" or to otherwise drastically remake systems of policing.
The video of Nichols, released Friday at around 6 p.m., shows officers pull him over for reckless driving. Nichols runs away after one of the officers attempt to tase him but is caught blocks away from his home. The officers then restrain Nichols and take turns kicking, punching and taking a baton to him as he screams for his mother.
He was taken to a hospital later and died of his injuries. Five officers have been fired and charged with murdering Nichols.
For many, the trauma of watching such incidents has become too much.
Chauntyll Allen with Black Lives Matter Twin Cities said she couldn't stomach watching the whole video. She asked: "Do my grandchildren have to experience this?"
Activist D.J. Hooker said he was in tears Friday and had to take breaks from work as he waited for the video's release. Hooker found it ironic that law enforcement in Minnesota erected barriers Friday in case of riots.
"It's easier to pay people, these cops, overtime and it's easier to pay people to put barricades up than it is to actually pass legislation that's going to keep our neighbors safe — that's going to keep Black and brown folks safe," Hooker said.
Walz called the Memphis footage horrifying in a tweet on Friday night, adding that Minnesota and the nation must "recommit to stopping this pattern of violence."
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the state's largest organization representing public safety professionals, said the force officers used on Nichols was unreasonable and contrary to police policies and law.
"The video is shocking and tragic. It does not reflect proper policing, and Tyre Nichols did not deserve to die," Executive Director Brian Peters said in a statement released Saturday. "Police officers must earn the trust of the communities we serve by treating all people with dignity, compassion, and respect."
At 38th and Chicago on Saturday, snow covered the pavement where Floyd spent some of his last moments. That's where Bryan, who declined to share his last name, thought about the state of the country.
For him, a solution to police violence must involve the community and law enforcement.
"It hurts seeing a Black man dying under those law enforcement people. They're supposed to be protecting him," Bryan said. "As a society, as a human being, we have to come together and find a common ground. There is no law enforcement without the society and there's no society without somebody who's supporting laws. But [this] has to stop."