KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville residents came together Sunday evening to hold a candlelight vigil to honor Tyre Nichols, who died after a police traffic stop in Memphis in early January.
Protests broke out across the U.S. after footage of the incident was released on Friday. Community members gathered in front of the City County Building in downtown Knoxville where they shared their thoughts and stories and held a moment of silence.
Chris Irwin helped organize the event and said the feeling of organizing vigils is nothing new.
“Everyone’s gotten relatively skilled at doing this again, and again, and again. I was thinking how quickly it came together and how easily, and that’s a statement within itself,” Irwin said.
He said it’s important to stay vigilant despite the repetitiveness and to remember the victims of police violence as human beings.
“We remember him as a photographer, as a skater, his website is out there. that we remember him as a human being that weighed 155 pounds soaking wet, and over 1000 pounds of cops killed him,” Irwin said.
One man who spoke at the vigil shared the story of Anthony Thompson Jr., who was killed by a Knoxville Police officer after a confrontation in a bathroom at Austin-East Magnet High School in 2021, and expressed the need for change everywhere.
“Law enforcement heads and politicians are speaking about a situation in Memphis, but they can’t speak and resolve issues right here where they have jurisdiction,” he said.
Imani Mfalme Shu’la also helped organize the event, and said there needs to be more police accountability.
“It’s going to happen again.. until these systems change,” Shu’la said.
She did not watch the footage released of the incident.
“I reached out to the men that look like me in my life and I told them that I love them and I support them,” Shu’la said. “For many of us, we don’t have to watch, we know how the end happens.”
The five now-former Memphis Police officers charged in Nichols’ murder were released on bond.