No adjective is sufficient to describe the reaction one gets from watching five Memphis police officers beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols to within an inch of his life. He later died in a local hospital.
"Inhumane" and "senseless" are as close as it comes. While Nichols was accused of reckless driving, it was an insufficient charge to cause such a violent reaction by the five cops. In fact, the 67-minute video shows Nichols posed no threat and tried to calm the officers, who were quickly dismissed from the force and their special SCORPION crime-fighting unit disbanded.
In the gut-wrenching video we hear Nichols calling out for his mother, who later stated she didn't want any protests to turn violent. All five officers have been charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault.
Unfortunately there are people who use such incidents for political purposes. One example came from CNN commentator Van Jones, who said even though the five officers were Black (as was Nichols), the beating could still have been driven by racism. His argument was that police officers--even Black police officers--"internalize" certain stereotypes about other Black people.
Antifa is a group that seems to be on a mission to harm the country. It immediately called for nationwide protests, which quickly broke out in some major cities. An Antifa poster obtained by The Daily Mail called for demonstrators to gather in New York and other cities, bring weapons and "burn it all down."
On cue, protesters threw fireworks at a Los Angeles police cruiser, and a squad car was smashed in New York. Thousands of protesters turned out in Memphis, Portland and Seattle.
Several things must be said about this in addition to condemning the undeniable cruelty of the beating Nichols sustained. In response to Jones' suggestion of racism, Black people are the majority race in Memphis, over 64 percent, according to the latest Census,
The mayor of the city and a majority of the city council are Black, as is the police chief. This should quiet claims of racism among the population and the projection of this sin on other police officers who serve with honor and distinction, sometimes risking their lives.
A question I have asked on several occasions when demonstrators became rioters and attacked property, looted and committed other criminal acts: Who are these people? Are they all locals? If not, where did they come from? How did they get to these cities so quickly? What organization is paying them? Who printed and paid for some of their signs?
During past protests there have been reports of trucks showing up and handing out preprinted signs. There is a website that offers protesters for virtually any cause in exchange for payment. It's called Crowds on Demand.
I have never heard a reporter ask any of the above questions or investigate who is behind some of these demonstrations, who underwrites the cost of their transportation, lodging, food and whether any of them are being paid.
It does not diminish what happened in Memphis, or the culpability of the fired police officers, to ask these questions. From what the video shows there was no justification for what happened to Tyre Nichols.
Neither is there any justification for violent behavior in reaction to it, which changes and improves nothing. The justice system will proceed, as it should. If the five men are found guilty, they will pay a stiff price.
Tyre Nichols has paid the ultimate price. No amount of justice for those now ex-cops will restore his young life.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for the Tribune Content Agency.