• Fri. May 24th, 2024

‘We demand justice’: Phoenix Protest

Jan 29, 2023

Protesters rally outside Phoenix City Hall after the death of Tyre Nichols, chanting “we demand justice.”

The death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who was severely beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 10 prompted a large crowd to gather in downtown Phoenix on Saturday evening to protest his death. Chants of “no justice, no peace” could be heard throughout the crowd.

On the steps of Phoenix City Hall, members of various activist groups in the city spoke out against police brutality in the wake of Nichols’ death. Concerned community members and activists gathered to listen, some holding signs reading “The people demand: end police terror.”

Protesters included members of the Communist Party USA’s Phoenix chapter and the Phoenix chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, both of which, according to their respective websites, promote social justice issues and systemic reform through socialism.

“We the people find killer cops responsible. Killer police officers should be locked up, as we demand their punishment. Aldo Soberon, a PSL Phoenix member, spoke out, his amplified voice attracting the attention of the crowd, demanding an end to police terror and justice for all victims of police brutality.

The release of the body camera footage from the five Memphis Police Officers involved in the beating of Nichols on January 27 prompted protests across the country and reopened wounds from previous police brutality cases, such as those involving George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

After Tyre Nichols was killed by police in Memphis, on January 28, 2023, protesters gathered outside Phoenix City Hall to demand an end to police brutality.
Soberon walked down the steps of city hall and handed the microphone to Percy Christian, a Black community activist in Phoenix.

No amount of articulation could ever convey the depth of my sadness at learning he’d been lying there for 22 minutes. To what extent is this possible? Christian addressed the audience, “Can you believe it has only been two years since we were on our knees, doing everything in our power to get noticed? What major adjustments did we make to better safeguard individuals like Tyre Nichols? Unfortunately, our losses continue. The fact that we keep falling short makes it difficult.

Christian stated, “I was assaulted by the police, had charges placed on me, and was thrown in jail for nine days, so it really impacts me in a very personal way.”

Speakers at the demonstration repeatedly stressed the importance of local, grass-roots activism by urging onlookers to engage in “difficult racial conversations” in their own communities.

The hosts of Civic Cipher, a radio show in Phoenix aimed at amplifying Black and Brown voices, Ramses Ja and Q. Ward, recently took action to encourage community members to make use of their infrastructure to enact change and have their voices heard.

Beginning in early 2020 as a response to the murders of Floyd, Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the hosts of the radio show Civic Cipher have used it to facilitate challenging discussions about race, society, and culture.

To do nothing would be unacceptable to me.
The crowd size reflected the importance placed on making change at the grassroots level in the community.

Protester Michelle Taplar said, “My friend shared something on her Instagram story and then I looked into the case of Tyre Nichols and it was really disturbing, it made me sick to my stomach and I can’t just sit back and do nothing so I wanted to come out and see what I could do.”

Christian suggested that activists in Phoenix “follow a lot of organizations who are doing the work,” mentioning organizations like Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro and AZ Poder.

AZ Poder is an organization that aims to reduce state violence by giving members of the working class more political power.

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Hector Jaramillo, a member of the Glendale Elementary School Board and an AZ Poder representative, spoke at the rally, saying that the organization’s goal is to create “sustainable change” at the community level.

As one PSL member put it, “this protest is a way for the Phoenix community to shed light on the injustices in Memphis and really across the nation and to stand in solidarity with all the oppressed folks across the country, to show them that they are not alone in the fight.”

As the sun set behind city hall, Soberon told the crowd to “never let up” and called an end to the protest. We’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose.