When Mark Elliott first learned about the killing of Tyre Nichols, Elliott said he was here physically but mentally went to a different place. Nichols was a 29-year-old Black man who, according to the Associated Press, was punched, kicked and hit with a baton by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee in a traffic stop Jan. 7. Elliott said he went back to what happened with George Floyd, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin.
Floyd was killed May 25, 2020, when a police officer kneeled on his neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota, according to History.com. Garner died in an illegal chokehold by police in New York July 17, 2014. Trayvon Martin was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.
As a member of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) in Muncie, Indiana, Elliott gathered with around a dozen other people, held a sign and stood outside of the City Council building in the “Unite Against Police Brutality” protest Feb. 5. The two most prevalent signs at the protest read “Justice for Tyre Nichols. Jail Killer Cops!” and “The people demand: End Police Terror.”
“We’re just standing up against the brutality that oppressed people face on a day-to-day basis,” Abby Bartels, clinical mental health counseling graduate student, said. “People deserve justice. They certainly deserve a lot more than what they’re getting.”
According to their flyer, the PSL organizes against racism, sexism, bigotry, exploitation, homelessness, climate crisis, etc. It also states a need for capitalism to end and has its own newspaper titled Liberation. Several of the party members referred to it as a Marxist-Leninist party.
Elliott said, despite his own view that police only act as a property protector and do not care about the people, he was still “viscerally shocked,” by Nichols’ death.
“At a certain point, you just stop being shocked,” Joseph Souca, a protester, said. “I’ve seen enough. There’s nothing I haven’t seen police do and, in fact, there were times where police violence was even worse … we’ve never actually sat down and reconsidered policing, actually reconsider[ed] what policing means and what criminality means in this country.”
Souca said there is a cyclical nature to Americans watching people die through the release of body cam footage, and then, according to him, politicians say things and nothing happens. He believes he, the other protesters and people who have “the political consciousness” need to be there to say they “want [police killings] to end and never happen again.”
“There’s a need to bring Muncie into the national fight for change and make real revolution in our country because, up until now, it’s just been complicity and complacency all across the board,” Mario Gaona, one of the lead organizers and founding members of the PSL in Muncie, said. “… We felt the need to join in this fight because of just how many Black bodies have already been killed this month … Muncie needs to know we care too, that our city cares, and that we don’t need to keep supporting this violence.”
During the protest, several chants could be heard, including “No good cop in a racist system. No one’s free in a racist system,” “If we don’t get it, shut it down,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Some cars honked as they drove past the scene and the protest lasted a little over an hour.
Jauston Huerta, or THEKINGTRILL as he is frequently called, is the Indianapolis director and housing manager of Focus Initiatives LTD in Indianapolis, and he was one of the people who gave a speech to protestors.
During his speech, he said, “These things have not stopped, they are only continuing. They are multiplying.”
Focus Initiatives LTD helps people build their lives after incarceration, according to their website. Huerta said he fights against the criminal justice system, “because it serves no relative purpose for making society a better place.” He mentioned it pulls families apart and creates policies to hurt marginalized communities.
According to his view, policing today had a connection to slavery. This statement is supported by NAACP, which has an article stating early policing can be traced back to the Slave Patrol.
“The only thing that we have to do as a people is start taking charge and showing care and concern for the people in our own communities,” Huerta said. “Rebuild th[ose] bonds, help people come out of this system … working with our own people and just trying to get people focused on the higher life, living a better life.”
He said the protest was a great starting point.
“Whatever it is you do to pass your time … use that … to educate one more person about this struggle,” he said during his speech.
He spoke about bringing people of all genders, races, etc together in “one state of mind.”
“It’s sad that we have to do this. It’s sad that we have to be out here to show up for people who are killed mercilessly by police,” Bartels said. “So we’re just showing up in place of those who can’t be here and just doing what we can, and hopefully making an impact and getting people to [know] that things can change and things don’t have to be like this.”