State senator calls for RIOTS after Tennessee Republicans pass bill undoing police traffic stop reforms
03/21/2024 // Ethan Huff // Views

The passage of a bill in Tennessee that reverses another police reform bill in the wake of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis cops in 2023 is stirring up anger as some residents, including state Sen. Charlane Oliver, are suggesting that people riot in opposition to it.

The original bill, adopted by the Memphis City Council, outlawed so-called pretextual traffic stops for minor violations such as a broken taillight. Republicans were so upset by the bill that they passed a statewide one to override any and all local limits on traffic stops when an officer observes or has reasonable suspicion that someone in the car has violated either a local ordinance or a state or federal law.

House Republicans reportedly approved the statewide overriding measure followed by Senate Republicans adopting it as well. The only people who opposed the bill were the chamber's six voting Democrats.

"I pleaded with the sponsor not to run this because it's a slap in the face, not only for our city council but for all the local governing bodies in this state," commented Sen. London Lamar, a Democrat from Memphis whose district includes the location where Nichols was killed by police.

"[They're telling us we] are not smart enough to decide policies to help govern [our] own city. This is extreme government overreach."

State Sen. Oliver also called the bill a slap in the face, adding that "you might as well stomp on the grave of Tyre Nichols for bringing this bill.

"Yes, we are emotionally charged," she added. "Why? Because it's personal for us. [Sen. Brent] Taylor made this personal the minute he introduced this legislation to target one family and one life that was lost. So yeah, we gonna fight."

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"Dr. King said the riots are the language of the unheard. You ain't seen nothing yet. If you keep silencing us like this, what do you think our district's gonna do? We have had it up here, gloves off. Like, we got to fight like hell. You don't expect us to respond?"

(Related: During the Wuhan coronavirus [COVID-19] "pandemic," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order authorizing quarantines and involuntary internment of state residents by the National Guard.)

Race wars enflaming in Tennessee

When Nichols was killed in January 2023, many local Memphis residents called for police reform not only locally but nationally. This came after video footage showed an almost three-minute barrage of fists, feet, and police batons striking Nichols' face and head, both front and back.

All five of the officers involved, all of whom are black, were charged with federal civil rights violations and second-degree murder, along with other criminal counts in state court. One has pleaded guilty in federal court.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is also now involved with an investigation into how Memphis Police Department officers use force and conduct arrests. The DOJ is also looking into whether the department in the majority-black city engages in racially discriminatory policing.

While the new bill has yet to be signed by Gov. Bill Lee, he has also never handed down a single veto since taking office, which suggests he plans on signing it just like every other bill that has ever come across his desk.

There is much debate over whether Nichols even drove into oncoming traffic at all, a claim initially made by police that was later refuted by Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis who said there was no evidence that Nichols was driving recklessly.

"Memphis is an independent city, so to speak," said Rodney Well, Nichols' stepfather. "It's not like any other city in Tennessee. It's majority black. Fair is fair. We worked too hard to get this bill passed for it to be overturned like this."

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