The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), an organization working to transition the United States from capitalism to socialism, organized a vigil for Tyre Nichols outside of Columbia City Hall Sunday evening.
Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died in the hospital Jan. 10 after being severely beaten by five Memphis Tennessee police officers. Protests and vigils have been held throughout the United States in the wake of Nichols’ death, and the subsequent release of footage of the beating.
At the vigil, several Columbia community members spoke in front of pictures of Nichols and plastic candles. Around 15 people attended.
“A 4-year-old boy had his father stolen from him and that is not something that can be taken back or they can make an excuse for,” PSL organizer Luna Brazell said. “Tyre’s death will not be forgotten. So many people across the states have shown their support and recognition for Tyre, and we will continue.”
USC fourth-year broadcast journalism student and activist Courtney McClain, who recently organized a protest against “racist culture” on USC’s campus, also spoke at the event.
“We cannot reform a system that was never created to protect us. We cannot force diversity within a system that’s broken and expect for those people to not reflect the same values of that system,” McClain said. “We have to continue to step up and talk to not only law enforcement but our lawmakers. We need to pass the George Floyd Act. We need them to stop allowing qualified immunity, stop allowing civil forfeitures.”
McClain also said she would be interested in organizing a forum event on campus for students to voice their concerns to law enforcement and lawyers, similar to one recently held at South Carolina State University.
Other USC students also showed up to stand vigil with the PSL organizers.
“You just hear about how good of a person he is, how casual a person he was, just how he enjoyed doing casual things, like skating and photography,” fourth-year computer science student Robert Robinson, who is taking a brief hiatus from college, said. “I think of my best friends because I tend to skate, I like photography. I think about a lot of people I hang out with, a lot of people that I associate with. I think about myself as well, and then I think I know for a fact this dude did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Bree Perez, a first-year English Ph.D. candidate, also protested outside former president Donald Trump’s campaign event at the South Carolina Statehouse where she received vitriol remarks from others.
"The death of Tyre Nichols is just a prime example of racism still being alive, but the Black Lives Matter movement needs to be alive in this moment as well," Perez said. "I think the fact that Tyre Nichols died at this time still is incredibly telling up our system alongside the speaking of Trump at the State House was awful."
Another USC student, first-year marine science Hailey Sommey, came in part because she is from Tennessee, where Nichols died.
“I think it's a really beautiful thing to have a vigil for him, to honor his life and I think it's really important to have more people educated about police brutality,” Sommey said. “What happened to him was really really horrific. The pictures alone just make me nauseous, of him in the hospital, because it's so terrible. So I thought I would come be with people and honor his life a little bit.”