President Joe Biden asked that demonstrations remain peaceful, as the country braces for the release of the video that shows Memphis police brutalizing 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who died three days later.
‘What’s at stake is, first of all, innocent people’s lives, No. 1. No. 2, it has a lot to say and do with the image of America,’ Biden told reporters on the South Lawn Friday evening, as he departed on Marine One for Camp David. ‘It has a lot to do with whether or not we are the country we say we are. That we are a country of law and order … that we can peacefully protest and let the courts make the judgment.’
Biden also recounted his phone conversation earlier Friday with Nichols’ family – RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, his mother and stepfather.
‘I spoke to Tyre’s mother and expressed my condolences and I told her I was going to be making the case for the Congress to pass the George Floyd Act and get this under control,’ the president said. ‘I can only do so much with an executive order at the federal level.’
‘I was really pleased that she called for peaceful protests, no violence, no movement at all,’ he added.
Asked if he was worried about demonstrations turning violent and destructive, the president answered in the affirmative.
‘Well I am, I’m obviously very concerned about it,’ he answered.
He added that RowVaughn Wells made a ‘very strong plea’ for calm. ‘She’s obviously in enormous pain,’ Biden said, but added, ‘she says she already is thinking about what he would want her to do. Which is very positive.’
President Joe Biden asked that demonstrations remain peaceful, as the country braces for the release of the video that shows Memphis police brutalizing 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who died three days later
President Joe Biden called Rodney Wells (left) and RowVaughn Wells (center), the stepfather and mother of Tyre Nichols on Friday afternoon. They’re seated alongside prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump (right)
In video captured of the call and shared by The Washington Post, Biden can be heard commiserating with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells. They are seated next to prominent civil rights lawyer, Ben Crump.
‘I know it’s devastating,’ the president said. ‘I know people say that to you. But I do know – I’ve lost my son in a war, the consequence of a war in Iraq, being there a year. I lost my daughter when a tractor-trailer broadsided and killed my wife and daughter.’
‘I don’t know how you stood there – I didn’t have the courage to do what you did,’ the president added, referencing a press conference the couple held earlier Friday.
Biden called Nichols ‘hell of a kid, a handsome boy,’ as his mother told the president,’ You know, Mr. President, he actually tattooed my name on his arm.’
‘I do know that,’ the president replied. ‘That’s what you call something special.’
During Friday’s briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that Biden had yet to see the video, despite FBI Director Christopher Wray saying he had seen the brutal footage.
In a statement Thursday night, Biden called for calm ahead of the video’s expected Friday release – scheduled for some time after 6 p.m. CST.
‘As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest,’ the president said. ‘Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.’
The 29-year-old Nichols died on January 10, after a traffic stop with five Memphis police officers left him hospitalized after a severe beating, just steps from his home. Nichols and the five officers are black.
Tyre Nichols is pictured in the hospital after being beaten by five Memphis police officers. The 29-year-old from Memphis died on January 10 from cardiac arrest and kidney failure, three days after he was pulled over for reckless driving by police in unmarked cars
Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the arrest and death of Tyre Nichols
Biden said that Nichols’ family ‘deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death.’
The president added that, ‘Public trust is the foundation of public safety and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken.’
‘Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all,’ Biden said. ‘We also cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted Black and Brown people.’
‘To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement, the vast majority of whom wear the badge honorably, and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect,’ the president continued.
Biden noted how the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act failed to pass Congress.
It passed the Democrat-run House of Representatives in March 2021, but failed in the Senate due to Democrats not having enough votes to override a GOP-led filibuster.
The president later signed an executive order that included stricter use of force provisions for federal law enforcement.
‘Today, we all must re-commit ourselves to the critical work that must be done to advance meaningful reforms,’ Biden said.
On Friday morning, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis described the Nichols video to be worse than what happened to Rodney King, which set off the LA riots in the 1990s.
Tyre Nichols died three days after a traffic stop led to him being severely beaten by five Memphis police officers
People attend a candlelight vigil in memory of Tyre Nichols at the Tobey Skate Park in Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis (right) said that the video of the attack on Nichols was the worst of her career
‘I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything of that nature in my entire career. I was outraged. It was incomprehensible to me. It was that bad,’ she told CNN’s Don Lemon.
All five officers involved in the incident have been fired and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and official oppression.
Four of the five have been released from jail on bond.
‘We are going to see acts that defy humanity, a disregard for life, duty of care and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement,’ Davis said. ‘I’m sure that individuals watching will feel what the family felt. And if you don’t, then you’re not a human being.’
‘I would say it is about the same if not worse than the 1991 beating of Rodney King. A group think mentality,’ she added.
The police chief added that there is ‘no proof’ that Nichols was driving recklessly when he was pulled over – with cops failing to substantiate claims that he was.