Scorpions are dangerous and deadly. They have stung thousands of persons to death. But this 50-person team established by the Memphis Police Department in October 2021, derived their name from "Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods".
On January 7, 2023, the Scorpion squad gained murderous notoriety when video recorded that day showed five Memphis Police officers, all African-Americans, mercilessly beating a 29-year old African-American man, Tyre Nichols. Those Black men in uniform beat and traumatized Tyre so much that Tyre died in a hospital three days later, on January 10, 2023. The five officers: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith were dismissed from the Memphis Police Department, after a couple of days. They stopped Tyre on suspicion of reckless driving. They are being charged for his death.
Once the enormity of the actions of the Police officers began to filter into the community and increased the anger in the community, the Memphis Police department issued a statement to assert: "it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate" the Scorpion unit. Just like the notorious SARS unit in Nigeria engaged in violent overreach.
Memphis Police added that “While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonour on the title Scorpion, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.”
For easier to relate to imagery, the lawyers for the Nichols' family said the 1 hour the late Tyre suffered in the hands of the Black Police officers could be compared to the 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.
King is also African-American.
On Wednesday, February 1, 2023, the Rev. Al Sharpton, currently the most influential activist in Black America — even if very controversial — delivered the eulogy at the funeral service for Tyre in Memphis. The Vice President of the United States Kamala D. Harris, our Houston area Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, and several officials of government, community organizers and clergy were in attendance.
Rev. Al understands how to draw in the context of history. He has witnessed, or at least, remembers quite a lot of things.
He reflected and spoke to the significance that the alleged crimes took place only a few miles from the Lorraine Motel, where the great civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968. He was in that city for a non-violent protest/campaign for the safety of Black workers.
Rev. Al made these important points: “The reason why, Mr. and Mrs. Wells [Nichols’s stepfather and mother], what happened to Tyre is so personal to me is that five Black men that wouldn’t have had a job in the police department, would not ever be thought of to be in an elite squad in the city that Dr. King lost his life, not far away from that balcony, you beat a brother to death….”
Then, Sharpton escalated his delivery and had to say it, without mincing words that: "There's nothing more insulting and offensive to those of us that fight to open doors that you walk through those doors and act like the folks we had to fight for to get you through them doors," Sharpton added. "You didn’t get on the police department by yourself. The police chief didn’t get there by herself. People had to march and go to jail, and some lost their lives to open the doors for you, and how dare you act like that sacrifice was for nothing! …. The tape speaks for itself. They never asked this man for his license. Never asked for the car registration. Snatched him out of the car and began beating him. Nobody mentioned nothing about no girlfriend. Nobody mentioned nothing about — they started beating an unarmed man.”
With a soaring oratory and sense of histoty, the pan-Africanist Sharpton laid it appropriately, as he asked: “In the city that they slayed the dreamer what has happened to the dream? In the city where the dreamer lay down and shed his blood, you have the unmitigated gall to beat your brother, chase him down and beat him some more, call for backup and they take 20 minutes, and you watch him and you are too busy talking among each other, no empathy, no concern.”
I think we should listen to the message-filled, masterpiece 1971 song by Marvin Gaye, titled ‘What’s Going On?’
•Dr. Chido Nwangwu, author of the forthcoming 2023 book, MLK, Mandela & Achebe: Power, Leadership and Identity., is Founder of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet, USAfricaonline.com, and established USAfrica in 1992 in Houston. He has appeared as an analyst on CNN, ALJazeera, SKYnews, and served as an adviser on Africa business to Houston’s former Mayor Lee Brown. Follow him on Twitter @Chido247