Tyre Nichols was a Black father and a youngest son, a photographer, a skateboarder, a lover of sunsets, and so much more. And he should be alive today, sharing his gifts and his dreams with the world.
We grieve and honor Tyre. To his mother, RowVaughn Wells: we are so deeply sorry that you are faced with a pain that no mother should ever have to experience. May you reach the closest things to justice, healing, and peace that it is possible to in this lifetime. May the community, the many communities, touched by both Tyre’s life and his death, find solace.
It was individuals who committed this brutal murder, and stole Tyre’s life. But it was the system of policing – and all forms of state-sanctioned violence – that enabled this, and that continues to enable this over and over again. This system was built to uphold white supremacy, and it will continue to replicate itself to these ends until we finally say, no more.
Tyre’s life mattered. The life of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, an environmental activist shot and killed by police while protesting the construction of “Cop City” in Georgia, mattered. The gross audacity of the 90 million-dollar price tag, blatant environmental racism, and further militarization of an institution which currently terrorizes communities, is the antithesis of a response to national demands to defund police. “Cop City” is one of the most recent post-BLM responses to the collective power rising across the country by people most impacted by the centuries-old culture of domination and oppression that Manuel was courageously fighting against.
All of the people whose lives are at risk through this distinctive legacy of white supremacy, a culture of violence, hate and injustice, matter.
This system is not just in the south. It is right here in Vermont and New Hampshire too, and our own communities have felt and continue to feel the deep harms of policing. The same police officials – including Burlington’s police chief – who now respond with platitudes and expressions of outrage over individual acts while touting their “noble profession,” are part of upholding this system and enacting this violence.
More city budget dollars funneled into half-hearted reforms are not the answer. Body cams, diversity training, yet more studies – none of these will change the fundamental truths about policing and what it is built to do. As a Black woman-led organization dedicated to dismantling racism and inequality in all its forms, and winning justice, equity, true safety, and a fully inclusive multiracial democracy, RAD will continue the work to advance policies that invest differently in our communities and our collective future, and that reimagine safety for us all – from removing police from schools, to decriminalizing drug possession.
It is not lost on us that this is the weight of reality we are holding as we enter Black History Month. Our history is our present. We urge RAD members and supporters to take substantive action this month in service of Black lives, justice, and healing. One thing you can do right now, is to sign up to attend Voices from the Front: Structural Racism and Policing, a panel taking place on February 9th, that NAACP of Rutland Area & Windham County and the ACLU of Vermont have organized with five family members whose loved ones were lost to police violence, who are a part of the Love Not Blood Campaign.
Black men deserve to grow old. Black mothers deserve to see their sons grow old. All Black lives matter, period. We will continue fighting for a democracy in which this simple reality is lived out fully. Where our very lives are lived out fully, in peace and fullness.