Killings at the hands of police continue to be a horrific, far too common occurrence.
Much as they did during the weeks and months after the killing of George Floyd, which sparked a series of student-led peaceful protests both here in Mill Valley and all over Marin in the spring and summer of 2020, Mill Valley residents and those all over the country have rallied on behalf of those who’ve been victimized by unnecessary brutality.
The latest tragedy comes with the killing of Tyre Nichols, who was pulled over for alleged reckless driving and subsequently faced an onslaught of impossible demands and brutal beatings at the hands of Memphis police officers on Jan. 7. He was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days later. Much of the gruesome beating was caught on three police body cameras and a street camera.
With the latest horror in mind, the Mill Valley Force for Racial Equity and Empowerment (MVFREE), comprised of members of the former DEI Task Force, and the Heart of the Village, a network of Southern Marin moms, educators, advocates, and organizations taking local action to interrupt racism, support community wellness, and help make Marin a place where everyone is safe, thriving and welcome, are hosting a candlelight vigil for Nichols.
The vigil is set for Friday, Feb. 10 at 5pm on the Depot Plaza (87 Throckmorton Ave.).
It comes amidst the backdrop of Marin’s dramatic disparity when it comes to the percentage of traffic stops relative to the total population of Black and Hispanic residents. The data, released last week by the state attorney general, reveals that Black drivers and pedestrians are far more likely to be stopped and searched than white people in nearly every part of the state.
In Marin, Black residents make up a mere 2.4% of the county’s population, but made up 18% of the traffic stops in the sheriff department’s jurisdiction, according to Marin data via the Marin IJ. Same with Hispanic residents, who make up under 17% of the county’s population, but experienced 22% of traffic stops. Black people or those perceived to be Black were stopped almost 2.5 times more often than White people. Disturbingly, force was used more than 2.5 times than for White people.
Local police reports seem to come close to replicating sheriff department’s data. Black people were pulled over by San Rafael police 9.8% of the time last year; Hispanic people made up 37.3% of the traffic stops. In Mill Valley, Black people were pulled over by the police 5.5% of the time while Hispanic people were stopped 15.1% of the time since June 2021. The rates are a bit higher in Tiburon, 6.4 % and 21% respectively, in the last months of 2022.
In 2021, “A Vigil in Solidarity with Our Asian American and Pacific Islander Community” was held in the aftermath of the horrific series of mass shootings at three spas or massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as an alarming number of assaults on Asian-Americans. It was also hosted by MVFREE.
At that time, longtime Marin City and Mill Valley leader Amber Allen-Peirson set the over-arching tone for the event: “When one of us feels unsafe, we are all unsafe,” she said.
Nichols was a 29-year-old Sacramento native, a father, a man who loved his mom and a free-spirited soul who loved skateboarding and was looking for a new life in Memphis, Tennessee.
The New York Times found no verbal communications or actions by officers during the encounter that signaled Nichols posed a potential threat or was even acting aggressively. Yet each of the six officers immediately used physical force. The analysis also found the officers’ actions lacked coordination and served no clear tactical purpose. They continued to escalate their use of force even as Mr. Nichols became increasingly incapacitated and incoherent.
Footage and police documents show that at least some of the officers were aware that they were being filmed by body cameras. Video also captures two additional police officers arriving during the final blows and one supervisor, a lieutenant, who appeared about six minutes later as Mr. Nichols lay on the street severely injured. At least 14 responders were at the scene before the ambulance arrived, including 12 law enforcement officers, footage shows.