ESCONDIDO — Community organizers gathered in front of City Hall on Sunday to protest the brutal police beating deaths of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, and Keenan Anderson in Los Angeles.
Yusef Miller, executive director of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition, led a series of speakers at the rally on Jan. 29 demanding an end to police brutality and seeking justice in the January deaths.
On Jan. 7, five Memphis police officers fatally beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop. He was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days later. An autopsy report showed that Nichols suffered from “excessive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
The officers were fired Jan. 20 and were arrested Jan. 26 and charged with murder and other crimes related to Nichols’ death. Three Memphis EMTs were also fired for their failure to adequately assess Nichols’ condition at the scene.
On Jan. 27, the Memphis Police Department released footage from body-worn cameras and nearby surveillance cameras depicting the brutal incident, which has led to widespread protests in Memphis and across the nation, including San Diego.
At the Escondido demonstration, Miller noted that the officers who fatally beat Nichols were also Black, the race of the person in uniform doesn’t matter.
“It’s hard to fathom for some of us how the situation looks when another African American has died at the hands of African American police officers, but we’ve realized it doesn’t matter the race of the officer in the uniform,” Miller said. “It matters that the uniform has a culture of abusing people of color.”
Miller also noted that the officers were swiftly terminated from the police and arrested unlike other similar situations where white police officers are involved in the death of unarmed, black individuals.
“We need swift action in all cases like that,” Miller said.
Just a few days before Nichols died, Keenan Anderson suffered cardiac arrest and died on Jan. 3 nearly five hours after Los Angeles police officers restrained him and tasered him six times following a vehicle collision.
Anderson, 31, was the cousin of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Body-worn camera footage shows police attempted to arrest Anderson at the scene of a traffic collision. Anderson, who appeared to be in a distressed state and fearful of law enforcement, ran into the street where police ordered him to lay down on his stomach. Officers surrounded Anderson and tased him repeatedly until his body went limp. He was rushed to the hospital but died a few hours later.
According to LAPD, a preliminary toxicology report of Anderson’s blood samples showed positive tests for cocaine and marijuana.
Miller said Anderson was experiencing a mental health breakdown that was “answered with force and violence” that cost him his life.
“We need to improve the bridge between mental health and law enforcement so that people do not lose their lives,” Miller said. “(Anderson) was clearly mentally disturbed for whatever reason… that escalated into a situation that took his life.”
Besides Miller, speakers included ministers of two local churches who recalled the protests in response to George Floyd’s death in 2020.
“Three years ago, Americans took to the streets in millions protesting the death of George Floyd,” said Rev. Sharon Wylie of the Chalice Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Escondido. “Three years later, we’re in danger of becoming numb to the persistence of police brutality.”
Rev. Meg Decker of the Trinity Episcopal Church said the deaths of Anderson and Nichols should matter to everyone.
“Every person’s death diminishes each of us because we belong to humanity,” Decker said. “We see those who are different from us — those of different races or different economic backgrounds, from different areas of the country — and think we can walk away, that it doesn’t matter, but the deaths of these men matter to each and every one of us.”
Local community organizer and homeless advocate Juliana Musheyev wants to see a fundamental change in the role the police play in society.
“While working with homeless people in Escondido, we’ve asked them what role the police play in their lives. … They never tell us that they helped or aided them, it’s a force that pushes them out and pushes them down,” Musheyev said. “What we need is a fundamental shift in our society where we have forces that are here to protect us.”
Other upcoming North County events in honor of Tyre Nichols include a candlelight vigil at Magee Park in Carlsbad on Friday, Feb. 3, and a skateboarding memorial event at Poods Skatepark in Encinitas on Saturday, Feb. 4.