Disappointment, trauma, frustration: 3 Black Londoners react to killing of Tyre Nichols | CBC News
Calls for police reform in Canada and locally in London, Ont., have seemed to fade, a frustrating fact amplified as members of London’s Black community reel from the killing of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., after a beating by five police officers, activists here say.
“The whole problem with the policing system isn’t that we need more Black police officers. I think this just exemplifies that, that it’s not about diversity on the force — it’s about the force as a whole,” said Gal Harper, a member of Black Lives Matter London.
The five Memphis police officers charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’s death are Black and in their 20s and 30s.
“These were new officers. They were trained the way that new officers are supposed to get trained. This is a diverse force. You’ve got a Black police chief,” Harper told CBC News. “It doesn’t matter the colour of the officers. The fact is this is a problem with policing. To me, they’re all blue.”
When nearly 10,000 people marched in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, many called for defunding the London Police Service and changing how policing is done in the city. But this year, there’s a push to hire 54 new police officers, a call backed by London Mayor Josh Morgan.
“Not too long ago, there was a commitment to turning the tide, public expressions from different institutional leaders to embrace reform,” said Moses Latigo Odida, a filmmaker in London. “But we’ve reverted back to the sort of normalcy that, for Black people, we know is detrimental to our well-being. It’s not surprising, unfortunately, but it’s disappointing.”
Promises of reform ’empty’
The broken promises, coupled with seeing more Black men killed, is hurtful, he added.
“The police have these public statements at the ready that express their commitment to the public good and so forth. But we know them to be empty because when push comes to shove, we know that instead of actually hearing what the Black community is saying and sympathizing with the Black community, they’re hiring dozens more police officers.”
London Morning8:32Reaction to police beating in Memphis
Black organizations such as the Black London Network and Black Lives Matter are making resources available for community members, said Alexandra Kane, who is part of both groups.
“Black mental health has never been at the forefront of any real conversation about change and the systemic issues that we continue to face,” she said. “I tend to grin and bear it. I have groceries to buy, I have a life to live. But when we start to think about how this really affects us mentally, and in a lot of cases physically, we need to start thinking about how to take care of ourselves and protect ourselves in our mental fortitude so that we can continue to take care of our families and ourselves and each other.”
There’s a familiar feeling of hearing stories of trauma when a public death happens, said Latigo Odida.
“I couldn’t bring myself to watch this video. I have seen the video of Tyre Nichols’s family, of his community, and I don’t need to have watched it to grieve with them, to feel that set of emotions. As Black people, we are held together by a principal called Ubuntu, that I am because we are. Even though I am a Black person in London, Ont., and we see a Black body being bruised and murdered in Memphis, we are bound together.”
Latigo Odida also wants others in the Black community to know the Zulu phrase ‘Sawubona,’ which means ‘I see you.’ “We see you. I know that Black Londoners here and beyond are feeling all these same things that I keep feeling, and to Black people, I say, ‘I see you.’ They’re feeling trauma, they’re grieving, and the pain is real.”