'A Good Friday moment': Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Turner speak about Tyre Nichols' funeral impact

Lucas Finton
Memphis Commercial Appeal
The Rev. Al Sharpton will eulogize Tyre Nichols Wednesday, and repeat calls for national police reform.

In the wake of Tyre Nichols' death, the Rev. Al Sharpton called Nichols' parents to let them know he, and the National Action Network — the civil rights organization he founded ― would support them in any way they could.

"They asked me if I would come do a eulogy," Sharpton told The Commercial Appeal Monday afternoon. "I told them I'd be honored to do it."

As video footage came out of Nichols being brutally beaten — and stories about his life circulated around the nation ― his funeral began attracting a number of prominent officials, including a delegation from the White House.

More:'He loved Tennessee': Friends remember Tyre Nichols, man who died after MPD arrest

Wednesday's remarks will not be Sharpton's first high-profile eulogy, nor will it be the first one he has done for the family of a victim of police brutality, and he said he thinks he knows the direction his eulogy will take.

"Tyre will be known as one of those police brutality victims that cause the whole nation, if not the whole western world, to stop and deal with the question of police abuse," Sharpton said.

For the civil rights leader, delivering Nichols' eulogy provides him an opportunity to let family, friends, local activists, and national politicians know that the fight for justice for Nichols, along with the fight for reforms, will not end when the service finishes Wednesday.

"Think about the linchpin that made the '60s Civil Rights Movement work: it's that they came out with the '64 Civil Rights Act, they came out with the '65 Voting Rights Act," Sharpton said. "We've been able to get state laws passed. We have the movement (for police reform), but we have not had the legislation at the federal level. It's like if King got Alabama and Georgia to do things on integration, but not the Civil Rights Act."

Pastor J. Lawrence Turner delivers his sermon "What Did I Do" during a worship service at Mississippi Blvd. Christian Church Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023 in Memphis, Tenn. The church will hold the Tyre Nichols funeral service at the church on Wednesday.

Nichols' funeral is set for Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, 70 N. Bellevue Blvd. He died Jan. 10, three days after a beating by officers from the Memphis Police Department sent him to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition.

Five of the officers involved have been indicted on second-degree murder charges and three people from the Memphis Fire Department were fired Monday for not providing adequate medical aid to Nichols.

The church's senior pastor, the Rev. J. Lawrence Turner, said he is anticipating the funeral service to be "at capacity" and has been planning with his church and those close to the family.

"I think there will be north of 2,500 persons there," Turner said. "Our staff and a committed team of volunteers are working together in coordination with the team from the Crump (law) firm and the National Action Network to accommodate everyone who is coming to celebrate Tyre Nichols' life."

More:Justice for Tyre Nichols began at historic pace. US is watching what Memphis does next

Turner said there will be security services present to coordinate the service, along with controlling the crowds Wednesday, but he is expecting "everybody to have a safe experience."

He said he isn't sure if there will be a strong reaction to the presence of high-profile officials, but he thinks that it shows a sense of solidarity and will help bring further attention to what happened.

"There is a profound sense of sadness and outrage about what happened to Tyre Nichols," Turner said, adding that personally he is grieving as a Black man, with a Black son.

"Inhuman, heinous, vicious, depraved" were the words Turner used in his Sunday service to describe the footage of Nichols being punched, kicked, pepper sprayed and hit with a baton. The footage was released at 6 p.m. Friday, preceding a number of peaceful protests that marched through the city.

More:'We can't sit this one out:' The BLVD holds first Sunday service after release of Nichols video

"We're living in a Good Friday moment," Turner said Monday. "But a resurrection always is a possibility, and that's what I believe has to come from this moment. We cannot let Tyre's death be in vain. We want to get justice for him and his family, but it's also important that we do the work to make sure this stuff never happens again."

Lucas Finton is a news reporter with The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached at Lucas.Finton@commercialappeal.com and followed on Twitter @LucasFinton.