Ceremony for Tyre Nichols held at Mason Temple Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech
Before Tyre Nichols’ funeral on Wednesday, a press conference was held at the Mason Temple Church – a historic site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech on the eve of his assassination.
Nichols, who died earlier this month following a violent arrest at the hands of several Memphis police officers, was remembered by family, friends and civil rights leaders, including Al Sharpton, on Tuesday night.
Mason Temple was focal point for civil rights activities during the 1950s and 1960s, according to the National Parks Service (NPS). King delivered his iconic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech at the church on April 3, 1968. The next day, he was killed.
The church is the world headquarters for the Church of God in Christ, the second largest black denomination, and holds 7,500 people.
During King’s speech, the civil rights leader spoke about the difficult days ahead during the civil rights movement – but the “promise land” on the horizon.
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind,” King said during the address. “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.”
During his speech on Tuesday night, Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, also spoke about the “fight ahead of us” to achieve justice.
“Protect my wife because she’s very fragile. Right now. We need that for her. Trust me. And I need it to,” he said. “So, like I said, this will be short tonight because we got a long fight ahead of us. And we got to stay strong for it. Justice for Tyre. Justice for Tyre. Justice for Tyre. Justice for Tyre.”
Sharpton also spoke, calling what happened to Nichols, a “disgrace to this country.” Nichols was beaten by police at a traffic stop. Five officers involved were fired and are facing charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Disturbing video of the incident was released last week.
Two other officers have relieved of duty, three members of the Memphis Fire Department who responded to the scene were fired and two deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department have also been relieved of duty.
“When you can beat a man, chase him down and beat him some more, and then let him lay there wounded for over 20 minutes and think nothing would happen. You thought that no one would respond. You thought no one would care,” Sharpton said at Mason Temple. “Well, tomorrow the Vice President of the United States is coming to his funeral, and people are coming from all over the world. And we are coming because we’re all Tyre now, and we are all going to stand up with this family.”
Sharpton will also deliver remarks at Nichols’ funeral, held at 2 p.m. ET at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend, alongside other White House officials, including former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is senior adviser to the president for public engagement, Mitch Landrieu, senior adviser and infrastructure implementation coordinator, and Tara Murray, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Nichos’ family, is expected to also deliver remarks and members of Nichols’ family. Crump was unable to attend the press conference at Mason Temple because his flight was delayed.
Nichols, 29, was the father of a 4-year-old boy. His friends and family describe him as joyful and spiritual, an avid skateboarder and photographer.
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