‘The violence has to stop’ — Community holds vigil for Tyre Nichols in Hayward

Candles light a photo of Tyre Nichols, who was fatally beaten by officers with the Memphis Police Department, in front of Hayward City Hall on Wednesday night. (Sonia Waraich — East Bay Echo)

HAYWARD, Calif. — Less than a week after the release of video footage showing the fatal police beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, an avid skater and lover of sunsets, members of the Hayward community gathered to honor him and call for an end to police brutality.

The Wednesday evening vigil drew a crowd of about two dozen, including elected officials like Hayward City Councilmember Julie Roche. Jordan Leopold, co-founder of community group People of Change, shared accounts of police violence happening closer to home and urged elected officials to do more to hold the police accountable.

“This violence has to stop,” Leopold said.

The Hayward Police Department has had its own issues with police brutality, but there may be a chance for accountability. The newly elected Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced the creation of a public accountability unit and the decision to reopen eight police shooting cases that were closed by her predecessor, including the deaths of Agustin Gonsalez in 2019 and Caleb Smith in 2021 at the hands of Hayward police officers.

“As the top prosecutor, I want to give each case a thorough review to ensure justice has not been forgotten,” Price said in a press release. “I’ve made sure that my Office has attempted to reached out to each of the families of the deceased. The healing process cannot begin until we do our due diligence.”

Hayward’s acting Police Chief Bryan Matthews issued a statement on Monday, Jan. 27, stating that the video was disturbing and that “the actions of a few are sometimes associated with the entirety of our profession.”

“Despite this, we remain steadfast in our efforts to safeguard everyone in our community, and we collectively stand against those who would engage in unnecessary, illegitimate acts of violence against others,” Matthews said in the statement. “We remain committed to the preservation of human life and hold ourselves to the highest standards in partnership with our community and elected officials to ensure dignity and safety for all.”

Wanda Johnson lost her son Oscar Grant at the hands of BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009 and has been attending similar vigils for the almost 15 years since. The killings won’t stop until not only police officers are held accountable, but the system as a whole is changed, she said, pointing out how the same police brutality that was used against people in the 1960s and even earlier is the same police brutality that the community lives with today.

“Until we begin to work to dismantle the system, to change the way that it is set up,” Johnson said, “we will continue to face the same tragedies we’re facing today.”

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