Protestors in Chicago demand justice for Black Memphis photographer killed by police at traffic stop

By Elizabeth Rymut, Managing Editor

Hundreds of protestors gathered at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago on Monday night, calling for the elimination of special policing units like the one involved in the beating and death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.

The protest organized by Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression came after Memphis officials released video footage on Friday showing police officers beating Nichols, 29, during a traffic stop on Jan. 7. He died three days later.

Organizers and protestors rallied and then marched through the Loop in frigid temperatures.

Five officers allegedly involved in the brutal beating were fired and are now facing second-degree murder charges. The Memphis Police Department announced Monday that two EMTs who responded to the scene were also fired.

Nichols was an aspiring Black photographer who worked at FedEx at the time of his death. He had a 4-year-old son.

Kobi Guillory, one of the co-chairs of CAARPR, told the Chronicle he is angered and saddened these situations keep happening when Black people interact with the police.

“The main thing is that in order for the police crimes to stop, for the police to stop killing people, the communities have to have the power to make them stop,” Guillory said. “Vote for your local district council election on Feb. 28. Find out who is running to hold the police accountable.”

The city created 22 local district police councils in July 2021 as a new model for police accountability. Each council is made of up three people elected in regular municipal elections every four years. The elections are being held next month when voters also select an aldermen and the mayor.

Addressing the crowd and in front of news cameras, Guillory said into a microphone, “Everybody say, ‘F-ck 12!’”

“F-ck 12” is a slang phrase that is often used as an anti-police slogan, referencing police units, more specifically narcotics officers.

Guillory said people are angry because the police have been disrespecting their lives for centuries.

“This white supremacist system has been disrespecting our lives, so I don’t give a f-ck about disrespecting them with some words.”

Arewa Karen Winters, a candidate running for Police District Council, 15th district, told protestors that her nephew, Pierre Loury, 16, was killed by police in 2016.

“There is no law or policy to prevent what happens too often to black men, women, and children in this country,” Winters said. “Our blood bodies have been used as vehicles of violence and hatred since the enslaved Africans set foot here, and no matter how much we have achieved the American dream, we must continue to address institutionalized racism in all forms.”

Frank Chapman said he has been involved in the civil rights movement since 1961.

“We see the same the sh-t, year after year,” Chapman said. “That’s because the system has not changed; it’s the same change and it’s going to continue to murder us until we unite and stop this sh-t.”

Bishop Travis Grant, acting national executive director of Rainbow Push, founded by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, said they are calling for a dismantlement of the elite policing units across the country, including in Chicago.

The SCORPION unit in Memphis was created in November 2021 to address crime hot spots in the city, focusing on homicides, assaults and robberies.

“This group is organized criminals, a large plague in black and brown communities,” Grant said. “They are able to detain without probable cause, profile without probable cause, arrest without probable cause, and kill without probable cause. The life of Tyre Nichols will not go in vain.”