BOSTON (State House News Service) — Massachusetts political leaders grieved the victims of the Jan. 21 Monterey Park shooting and the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died after being beaten by five Memphis police officers earlier this month, and renewed calls to address police brutality Monday morning.
At a press conference organized to promote the state's new abortion legal services hotline, Attorney General Andrea Campbell also discussed what she called "an uptick of aggressive hate crimes" against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and said she is "praying for Tyre Nichols, his family, that community, and our country."
"Our team and partners did not know that when we set the date for this important announcement, that we would be speaking to you in the wake of deadly attacks on the AAPI community and the murder of Tyre Nichols. I continue to pray for the victims and the survivors Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and their families. However, all of us know, we need to do more than pray and stand in solidarity, because we know these horrific attacks don't happen in isolation," Campbell said.
Eleven people were killed and nine others were injured when a shooter opened fire at a crowded dance studio in Monterey Park, California on Jan. 21. All 11 victims were Asian American and in their 60s or 70s.
"Our office will continue to do everything in its power to stop these hateful acts and ensure that we will hold people accountable and ensure that the AAPI community feels safe as they go about their daily lives," Campbell said.
A cornerstone of the attorney general's campaign last year was getting illegal guns off the streets, and she has promised to form an Office of Gun Safety Enforcement because, she said in her inaugural speech, "everyone, no matter where you live, should feel safe in their community."
Discussing Nichols' death, Campbell said she was "deeply saddened and at moments emotionally overwhelmed." She reminded those listening that he was not just a victim, but "a father, a son, a friend, a community member and a human being."
The city of Memphis released footage on Friday of officers beating the 29-year-old Nichols after pulling him over during a traffic stop, chasing him down then repeatedly kicking, punching and striking him with batons as he lay on the ground. The graphic video spurred protests around the country, including in Boston.
"Every time we see another instance of police brutality, it breaks the heart of mothers and communities across this country -- especially the Black community. This persistent trauma, it destroys our young people and it destroys our families," she said.
Campbell, who is Black, often talked during her campaign about her twin brother Andre who died in police custody 11 years ago.
"There remains tremendous work to do to address corruption, police brutality and racial justice in Massachusetts, and in this country," she said. "We cannot become numb to these horrific acts or normalize them. My office particularly and including the Civil Rights Division, the Criminal Bureau, Public Protection Advocacy Bureau and so many others stand ready to protect these communities and to fight for them. My team and I will not forget the urgency that we feel right now."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who spoke after Campbell, said President Joe Biden "is right to urge Congress to pass [the] George Floyd Justice in Policing Act." The bill contained reform measures such as bans on chokeholds and federal no-knock warrants. It was passed by the Democrat-controlled House in 2020 but died in the Senate due to partisan disagreements on ending qualified immunity for police officers.
"We have a responsibility not just here in Massachusetts, but all across this country to do more to treat all of our communities with respect," Warren said. "As the attorney general rightly says, every mother has a right to rear her children, to parent her children, in safe and loving communities, and we are all responsible for making that happen."
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley also voiced support for passing the George Floyd Justice and Policing bill, as well as a bill she filed to end qualified immunity.
"Black men deserve to grow old," Pressley said. "Tyre Nichols, beloved son, father, brother, should be more than a hashtag because of yet another unjust killing of a Black man at the hands of police. Tyre Nichols should be trending because he took a beautiful picture of a sunset, something he loved to do, or performed a really hard skateboarding trick, something else he loved to do, or perhaps even for being employee of the month or a year at FedEX, where he worked. So, our hearts go out to the family, but this has become a maddening deja vu."
Written by Sam Drysdale/SHNS.