About 50 protesters shut down traffic at the intersection of Poplar Ave. and Danny Thomas Blvd. around 1:15 p.m. Saturday and called for police reform in the wake of Tyre Nichols' death.
The peaceful "Justice for Tyre" protest, organized by Black Lives Matter and Decarcerate Memphis, started near the Shelby County Court House and the group marched along Adams Ave. before ending up at Poplar and Danny Thomas. The protesters chanted "Say his name. Trye" and "Justice for Tyre Nichols."
The Memphis Police Department put out a tweet around 2 p.m. saying the lanes near and around Danny Thomas and Poplar were closed. MPD asked drivers to avoid the area and choose an alternate route.
The protesters have five demands: Pass the data-transparency act at the county and city levels; end pre-textual traffic stops; end unmarked cars and plainclothes officers; end task force and specialized units; and remove police from traffic enforcement. The protesters also paused for a three-minute moment of silence for Tyre Nichols.
"We know right now we are not safe," activist Amber Sherman said. She and other protesters, including activist Hunter Demster, urged others to show up at the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission meetings this coming week.
"That's what's going to keep us safe, taking tangible action is going to keep us safe, not giving more money to the police," Sherman said.
Activist LJ Abraham encouraged protesters to settle in and invite friends to join them. Around 2:30 p.m., about 35 people remained in in the Poplar-Danny Thomas intersection, with blankets and hand warmers being passed around. Around 3:30 the number of protesters had dwindled to 25. Some protesters were kicking around a soccer ball, while others set up a fire pit.
"I love you guys so much standing out here shutting it down, making their life difficult like they made ours every day," said Veda Sterling, the aunt of Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot in 2016 by two police officers in Baton Rouge, La. She was holding a sign that reads "Justice for Tyre: Disband Special Units Now."
Nearly five years after Sterling's shooting, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved a $4.5 million settlement for the family of Alton Sterling to settle a wrongful death suit.
The family of 20-year-old Jaylin Keshawn McKenzie of Atlanta was also among the protesters. McKenzie was killed by Memphis police officers in December after officers chased him and three other men who authorities say were armed. They exited a vehicle and ran to the 4700 block of Cochese Road. MPD said McKenzie turned around and shot at officers, one of whom returned fire and fatally shot him. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating the McKenzie shooting.
Meanwhile, at least 50 people, many with skateboards and roller skates, gathered around 3 p.m. Saturday in front of the National Civil Rights Museum. This gathering put a spotlight on Nichols' love for skateboarding. The group is traveling to the I AM A MAN Plaza and plans to finish at Court Square Park.
The death of Nichols remains under investigation by the FBI and has led to the firing, arrests and indictments of five former Memphis police officers. Those officers have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and one count of official oppression, court records show. A sixth Memphis police officer was fired Friday.
Earlier this week, three employees with the Memphis Fire Department were terminated from the department related to Nichols' death.
This story will be updated.
Gina Butkovich covers DeSoto County, storytelling and general news. She can be reached at 901-232-6714 or on Twitter @gigibutko.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Tyre Nichols death: Protesters shut down traffic in Memphis