Crowd gathers in downtown Raleigh to join in protests over the death of Tyre Nichols

About 100 people gathered outside the Wake County courthouse in downtown Raleigh Saturday, joining in a nationwide series of protests over the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee.

Protesters marched in the streets for more than two hours, stopping to chant outside the Governor’s Mansion, the Capitol, the Raleigh Convention Center and other parts of downtown. The protest was peaceful, with speakers calling for police reform and an end to police brutality.

Law enforcement closed portions of streets, including a portion of Salisbury Street in front of the Wake County Justice Center, during the march as protesters walked and sang in the streets.

While Nichols was on the forefront of people’s minds, many also called out the name of Darryl Williams, a Raleigh man who died after being tased several times by police.

“We also have to bring awareness to cases happening here in Raleigh,” said Kerwin Pittman, an activist in the city. “It’s extremely important to highlight the injustices that are happening in your backyard.”

Dawn Blagrove, executive director of Emancipate NC, called on the Raleigh Police Department to end proactive policing, to fire the officers who tased Williams and for the City Council to divest from the Raleigh Police Department.

“It’s a concern for me because proactive policing is nothing more than targeted policing to harass Black people in Southeast Raleigh,” she said. “You show me one other area in the city where they are doing proactive policing. And I will be astonished. Proactive policing is no different than stop and frisk.”

The Raleigh Police Department was “conducting proactive patrols” and approached the vehicle Williams was in, according to the five-day report released by the police department.

“No one should be electrocuted in a parking lot,” Blagrove said, referencing Williams.

Other demands included the officers being investigated by a special prosecutor, for the Raleigh Police Department to not carry tasers and for officers to carry their own personal liability insurance.

Protesters calling for reforms in policing march north on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Saturday afternoon, Jan. 28, 2023.
Protesters calling for reforms in policing march north on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Saturday afternoon, Jan. 28, 2023.

“People are here because this is a time of crisis,” said Kristie Puckett-Williams, deputy director of the N.C. ACLU. “We want to remember that Darryl Williams and Tyre Nichols should not be dead. You should be able to have encounters with the police as Black, brown — any person — and survive that encounter. And not be beat. Not have your rights violated.”

Faith Howell attended with friends and her young son from Smithfield.

“(I’m here) to help our officers get educated on the communities they are serving in and, hopefully, implement deescalation tactics and more diversity, equity and inclusion education in their training.”

She has a friend who joined a local police department who told her they drilled officer safety above all for over two weeks.

“How can you go into a dangerous situation thinking ‘my safety over all’?” she said. “You know this is a dangerous occupation. That’s a given. But it’s not about protecting. It’s about serving people. Giving equitable justice to everyone aboard.”

Edwin Kariuki just moved to Raleigh but had participated in protests when he lived in Washington, D.C.

“We are here to spread awareness but everyone knows it’s happening,” he said. “I wanted to lend my voice to the people even if I’m just out here for an hour to be an extra body while they’re walking around. For their safety.”

Protests were also held Saturday in Charlotte, Memphis, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Portland and Seattle.

In Charlotte, more than 80 people marched on the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

“We want freedom, freedom,” they chanted. “All those killer cops, we don’t need ‘em, need ‘em.”

And, “No justice, no peace — no racist police.”

On Twitter, Gov. Roy Cooper called Nichols’ beating “senseless and inhumane,” “infuriating and a blatant abuse of authority.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Charlotte Observer reporter Ames Alexander contributed to this story.