MEMPHIS-The US city of Memphis on Sunday disbanded the special police unit whose officers fatally beat a young Black man, after graphic video of the assault sparked widespread shock and outrage. The video, which shows five officers repeatedly kicking and punching 29-year-old Tyre Nichols as he moans and calls out for his mother, triggered calls for police reform amid the anger.
The southern US city on Saturday announced it had deactivated the officers’ special unit, known as Scorpion, which was launched in 2021 to reduce illegal activity by assigning more police to high-crime areas.
The Memphis Police Department said in a statement it was “in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. “The officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step,” the department added. Several dozen demonstrators called for police reform Saturday afternoon as they gathered in the chilly rain in front of city hall shouting “No justice, no peace!” and carrying signs with slogans such as “Justice for Tyre Nichols.”
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At one point, a police car ended up surrounded by a group of protesters, who directed their angry chants at the vehicle.
Memphis City Council member JB Smiley Jr addressed the crowd’s demands, speaking to protesters in the rain. “Memphis has an opportunity to set the standard on how to respond to actions like this,” he told them.