VP Harris delivers emotional remarks at Tyre Nichols funeral: ‘We mourn with you’
The vice president calls on Congress to pass the George Floyd police reform bill: "We should not delay and we will not be denied. It is non-negotiable."
Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a brief but emotionally charged address at the funeral service of Tyre Nichols on Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee at the Sorensen Funeral Home.
America’s first African-American, Asian-American and female vice president was greeted with a standing ovation at the Mississippi Boulevard Baptist Church as minister and civil rights activist, Al Sharpton, welcomed her to the pulpit. Moments before delivering her remarks, Harris and Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, embraced each other with a visibly lengthy hug.
In her nearly five-minute speech, the vice president extended her condolences to Mrs. Wells and Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells. “We mourn with you and the people of our country mourn with you,” said Harris.
The vice president also used her time to call for federal police reform in the United States. “[For] mothers around the world, when their babies are born, they pray to God when they hold that child, that that body and that life will be safe for the rest of his life. Yet we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today,” said Harris. “When I think about the courage and the strength of this family, I think it demands that we speak truth.”
The deadly police beating of 29-year-old Nichols “was not in the interest of keeping the public safe,” she added. “Was he not also entitled to the right to be safe?”
Harris recalled being the co-author of the original George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a U.S. senator in 2020. As the current vice president of the United States, she demanded that the current Congress pass the stalled legislation in the wake of Nichols’ killing.
“[President] Joe Biden will sign it and we should not delay and we will not be denied. It is non-negotiable,” said the vice president, who moments later read the scripture Luke 1:79. “Let our memory of Tyre shine a light on the path toward peace and justice.”
Activist Melanie Campbell of the Black Women’s Roundtable and executive director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation told theGrio that Harris and other members of the Biden administration — including White House senior advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms — attending the funeral service was “the right thing to do.”
Campbell, who has engaged in several White House meetings on voting and civil rights, was moved by Harris’ message to the Wells family: “I felt the emotion as a Black woman [and] Black person in this country,” she said. “She spoke to the trauma … for that family … it’s traumatic for Black America.”
TheGrio broke the news on Tuesday of Harris’ decision to travel to Memphis to attend the funeral at the request of RowVaughn Wells. As previously reported, the vice president called the Wellses on Tuesday to extend her condolences and “consoled” the mother, who was “devastated” over the loss of her son and “having a hard time” during the 30-minute call.
Nichols’ death has renewed calls in Washington for lawmakers to pass the Floyd bill, which would restrict certain police practices and expand national data collection.
Campbell told theGrio that despite the political obstacles of a divided Congress and the seeming unwillingness of Republicans to work with Democrats on police reform, the Black community must “keep the faith.”
“We don’t always win the battle, but we can win the war for justice. When you think it can’t happen, it happens,” she said. “This is one of the most critical civil rights issues, and really — in many ways — a human rights issue of our time.”
Campbell also reserved a bit of optimism that Republican members of Congress could come around on the issue of police reform. “Sometimes, hearts open up,” she noted, adding that activists must continue organizing on the ground. “This is about what kind of country we want.”
Meanwhile, in her remarks at her son’s funeral, RowVaughn Wells thanked community activists for protesting in the city as well as Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis and District Attorney Steve Mulroy for “acting swiftly” in firing and charging five officers involved in the deadly beating.
RowVaughn Wells also called for passage of the Floyd bill in Congress. “There should be no other child that should suffer the way my son and all the other parents here [who] have lost their children,” said the grieving mother. “We need to get that bill passed … that next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands.”
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