Body camera and surveillance video of the Jan. 7 stop was released Friday, showing the beating that led to the 29-year-old’s hospitalization and death from his injuries. Included in the footage is Nichols telling the officers, “I’m just trying to get home,” and also screaming for his mother. On Thursday, the five police officers, who had been fired, were charged with murder.
Perry took to Instagram to share a photo of Nichols and describe his own conflicted feelings about whether to watch the footage of the incident. “Many people can’t imagine it happening to them because honestly, it never will,” he wrote about himself initially wanting to avoid the video. “I was determined to see what that space felt like for once, I would cover my ears and not let in the outside.”
Explaining that his goal “wasn’t possible,” he continued, “So today I will cry, I will be depressed, I will curse, I will be outraged, I will want to burn some shit up, I will be in agony, I will let my heart break for his family, I will moan with his tenor harmony from my own experience that is every Black man that’s ever called for the safety of the arms of mamma, I will inaudibly scream.”
Debbie Allen, Tina Knowles and Kym Whitley were among those who praised Perry’s post in the comments section. Knowles wrote that she, too, struggled with whether to watch but ultimately “was compelled to make myself watch it” and described what she saw as “heartbreaking.”
Davis and Niecy Nash both took to Instagram to share a black square featuring the words written in white, “I’m just trying to get home.” In the caption of their identical posts was a message attributed to MeToo founder Tarana Burke that read, “Sometimes a hope. Sometimes a prayer. Sometimes a frustration. Sometimes a fear. Sometimes impossible.” The posts also added the hashtag #werehereagain.
Timberlake, who was born in Memphis, tweeted that he was heartbroken and angry. “I stand with my hometown and the people of Memphis as we demand justice and accountability,” he wrote.
Questlove shared a number of posts and messages about the incident, including one discouraging people from watching the footage: “For The Love Of God. Torture P*rn Is Not Going To Serve Your Soul.”
W. Kamau Bell was among the social media users making comparisons to police officers beating Rodney King in 1991. “I remember the Rodney King assault,” Bell tweeted . “I remember how many of us thought the footage would change everything, Finally there was ‘proof’. Now there’s footage everyday of police brutalizing us. This footage is in HD & often comes from the police. Nothing changes.”
LeBron James retweeted a message from activist and podcast host Brittany Packnett Cunningham about systemic racism, given that all five of the officers from the traffic stop are Black. James added, “Too factual!!!”
In a lengthy tweet thread, Levar Burton celebrated Nichols’ life while unpacking why he would not be watching the video of the beating.
“I have not seen the video. Those who love me most have urged me not to. One of the truths playing Kunta Kinte taught me is that the dehumanization of Black people was necessary to the success of our enslavement,” he tweeted. “I don’t need to watch yet another Black man be beaten to death, especially by another Black man, to understand that rage is central to these acts of murder. I don’t need to see another Mother at the microphone to understand the crippling nature of her despair.”
These and other reactions, including ones from President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, Octavia Spencer and Mark Ruffalo, are below.
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