With Friday’s planned release of graphic video depicting the fatal beating of a 29-year-old Black man by five Memphis, Tennessee, police officers, Southland law enforcement agencies will be keeping a close watch to respond to possible local protests that might emerge.
A Los Angeles Police Department representative told City News Service the agency is monitoring the situation, but it has not moved into an official state of heightened alert.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the department said it has not “identified any specific, credible threat of violence” related to the pending video release, adding that the agency is “encouraged by the calls from various community and faith leaders calling for unity and peaceful demonstrations and protests.”
“The accounts of the circumstances of this heinous crime and the criminal actions of those involved are reprehensible. The department will do all within its power to ensure the lawful expression of the public’s anger and frustration is protected and prepared to facilitate those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also said it is monitoring for protests, and is working in tandem with other area law enforcement agencies.
“The sheriff’s department is in continuous contact with our local, state and federal partners concerning on-going events in their jurisdictions,” according to a department statement. “The department has also been engaged in community outreach efforts including valued dialogue with civic leaders throughout the week and will continue to do so. Our patrol stations and specialized units remain in a state of readiness to respond to any disturbances that might occur.
“The sheriff’s department supports the first amendment and the people’s right to protest.”
Some city of Los Angeles neighborhood councils received messages from the LAPD this week saying police are aware of the pending release of video and the possibility of protests, and noting that the department is prepared to respond and facilitate peaceful demonstrations. The messages noted that there were no known “threats or protests” in the city in advance of the video release, which is expected at 4 p.m. Pacific time.
The Long Beach Police Department issued a statement saying the agency was on a Stage 2 Tactical Alert.
“This means we will have additional officers on patrol ready to respond to calls for service or any other incidents that may develop,” according to LBPD. “We currently have no information of planned protest activity in our city.”
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, in a statement on social media, said the agency is on standby.
“We understand there may be strong reactions to the incident described by the Memphis police chief as `reckless and inhumane,”’ Barnes said. “At this time, we do not have information that any significant events will occur locally related to the release of this video. Our department will protect the First Amendment rights of those who peacefully demonstrate. We are also appropriately prepared and ready to respond if anyone attempts to act criminally.”
The video is expected to depict a Jan. 7 traffic stop in Memphis that led to the death in a hospital three days later of Tyre Nichols. Five Black police officers allegedly involved in the confrontation and beating of Nichols were fired last week, and all were charged this week with second-degree murder and other offenses.
Police and others familiar with the case have warned that the video is graphic, rivaling that of the 1991 LAPD beating of Rodney King, which led to an overhauling of LAPD management and ultimately sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots that left more than 60 people dead and caused more than $1 billion in damage.
A group of community activists gathered in Leimert Park on Friday morning ahead of the video’s release, calling for peaceful protests, and urging residents to gather to watch the video “collectively as one.”
Activist Najee Ali noted that after the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Los Angeles “exploded with different protests … all over L.A. County.”
Nichols’ family has spoken out in advance of the video release, calling for peace.
“More than anything we want peace,” Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said Thursday. “We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance.”
Famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Nichols’ family and also represented Floyd’s family, also called for peace and hailed Memphis officials for acting swiftly to fire the officers involved and charge them with murder. But he compared the video of Nichols’ beating to that of King.
“Regrettably, it reminded us of (the) Rodney King video,” Crump said. “Regrettably, unlike Rodney King, Tyre didn’t survive.”
Rodney King’s daughter, Lora Dene King, issued a statement through Ali Thursday decrying the police assault of Nichols as “extremely sickening.”
“We should not have to witness such things in this world over and over with a different name behind the hashtags,” she said.
“Watching these type of videos has become very disturbing. It triggers past beatings often in comparison to my father’s brutal 1991 beating with the LAPD. This is something I will never understand. I wish to send the family God’s Grace and mercy and strength to keep his legacy and good deeds alive as well. I am happy to know he (Nichols) loved skateboarding like my father. I hope his family find strength the most; in the days to come.”