The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Demonstrators gather in D.C. as Tyre Nichols video is released

Police briefly shut down a stretch of K Street NW, where demonstrators gathered before moving to Lafayette Square.

Demonstrators protest on K Street Friday. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
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About 75 people gathered in D.C.'s Lafayette Square Friday night for a demonstration in the wake of authorities’ releasing body-camera video of the brutal beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.

A somewhat smaller group of about 50 protesters had first amassed on K Street NW, prompting police to block traffic on a stretch of the roadway starting at about 6 p.m.

By 7:30 p.m., the roadway had reopened, after the activity moved to Lafayette Square.

The protests were meant to demand justice for Nichols, a 29-year-old fatally injured after being pulled over by police in Memphis, and to highlight local cases in which people died at the hands of police.

D.C. police said Thursday that officials had activated the department’s full force to prepare for possible protests.

“We understand that a video will be released and contains disturbing content that does not represent the values that any law enforcement officers are sworn to uphold,” D.C. police said in a statement.

Police said that they had no intelligence to indicate unrest was likely in the District, and the activation was being done out of caution.

“MPD respects the community’s First Amendment right to demonstrate and peacefully protest,” the statement said. “We will not tolerate any unlawful behavior during First Amendment demonstrations, and we will take swift law enforcement action should anyone break the law.”

Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a local Black-led mutual aid and community defense organization which organized the first D.C. event on K Street, said the group would also be rallying to “reclaim safety” in D.C., invoking the names of people in this region who have been killed by D.C. police.

“We are united in our mission to build a world where our families are truly safe, without police,” the group said in a statement.

The D.C. branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the group organizing the Lafayette Square protest, has called for people to “take to the streets” and “demonstrate in huge numbers to demand justice.”

“Only the people can put an end to the regime of police terror that Black America is subjected to,” the group said. “In 2020, tens of millions of people took to the streets across the country and around the world against racist police killings in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. That same spirit of resistance is needed now to keep up the fight.”

The death of Tyre Nichols

The latest: The Justice Department is launching a review of the Memphis Police Department’s use of force policies and practices. Each of the five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty in Tyre Nichols’ death. One of the officers texted a photo of bloodied Tyre to colleagues, according to records.

What has Memphis police footage revealed?: The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has sparked a complex dialogue on institutional racism in policing. Some of the most haunting videos came from SkyCop cameras.

Who was Tyre Nichols?: The 29-year-old father was pepper-sprayed, punched and kicked by Memphis cops after a January traffic stop. He was pronounced dead at a hospital three days after his arrest. At Tyre Nichols’ funeral service, his family said they are focused on getting justice.

What is the Scorpion unit?: After the fallout from the brutal beating, Memphis police shut down the Scorpion unit.