- - Monday, January 30, 2023

No adjective is sufficient to describe the reaction one gets from watching five Memphis police officers beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols to within an inch of his life. He later died of his injuries in a hospital.

“Inhumane” and “senseless” are as close as it comes. While Nichols was accused of reckless driving, it was an insufficient charge to cause such a violent reaction among the five officers. In fact, the video shows Mr. Nichols posed no threat and tried to calm the officers, who were quickly dismissed from the force, and their special Scorpion crime-fighting unit was disbanded. In the gut-wrenching video, we hear Nichols calling out for his mother, who later stated that she didn’t want any protests to turn violent. All five officers have been charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault.

Unfortunately, there are people who use such incidents for political purposes. One example came from CNN commentator Van Jones, who said that even though the five officers were Black (as was Nichols), the beating could still have been driven by racism. His argument was that police officers — even Black police officers — “internalize” certain stereotypes about other Black people.

Antifa is a group that seems to be on a mission to harm the country. It immediately called for nationwide protests, which quickly broke out in some major cities. An antifa poster obtained by the Daily Mail called for demonstrators to gather in New York and other cities, bring weapons and “burn it all down.” On cue, protesters threw fireworks at a Los Angeles police cruiser, and a squad car was smashed in New York. Thousands of protesters turned out in Memphis, Portland and Seattle.

Several things must be said about this, in addition to condemning the undeniable cruelty of the beating Mr. Nichols sustained. In response to Mr. Jones’ suggestion of racism, Black people are the majority race in Memphis, over 64%, according to the latest census. The mayor of the city and a majority of the City Council are Black, as is the police chief. This should quiet claims of racism among the population and the projection of this sin on other police officers who serve with honor and distinction, sometimes risking their lives.

A question I have asked on several occasions when demonstrators became rioters and attacked property, looted and committed other crimes: Who are these people? Are they all locals? If not, where did they come from? How did they get to these cities so quickly? What organization is paying them? Who printed and paid for some of their signs?

In past protests, there have been reports of trucks showing up and handing out printed signs. There is a website that offers protesters for virtually any cause in exchange for payment. It’s called “Crowds on Demand.” I have never heard a reporter ask any of the above questions or investigate who is behind some of these demonstrations, who underwrites the cost of their transportation, lodging and food, and whether any of them are being paid to protest.

It does not diminish what happened in Memphis or the culpability of the fired police officers to ask these questions. From what the video shows, there was no justification for what happened to Nichols. Nor is there any justification for violent behavior in reaction to it, which changes and improves nothing. The justice system will proceed as it should. If the five men are found guilty, they will pay a stiff price. Unfortunately, Nichols has paid the ultimate price. No amount of justice for those now ex-cops will restore his short life.

• Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com. Look for Cal Thomas’ latest book, “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers and the Future of the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan).

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