DENVER — Cities across the country are bracing for protests following the release of video depicting five Memphis police officers beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who died three days later.
Nichols’ parents, who viewed the video earlier this week, described it as horrific.
“One officer kicked him like he was kicking a football. A couple of times,” Nichols’s stepfather Rodney Wells said during an interview with CNN.
Following the descriptions of the video, many Americans are questioning whether to watch it or not.
“If we don't see it, we're not going to do anything about it,” said Maisha Fields, executive director of the Dayton Street Opportunity Center, a community outreach center.
Fields said activists have been fighting for police officers to wear body cameras, and with that comes the public responsibility to watch what those cameras capture.
“You can't be better unless you know better and unless you're informed. So we all have a duty to be empathetic, to do our own research, to make sure that our voices are heard. And if we ignore it, and turn it off, it doesn't get better,” Fields said. “Emmett Till's mother said, 'I want an open casket' and people told her no, don't show the people.”
Emmett Till, 14, was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. His mother’s decision to open his casket, displaying his brutalized body for a public viewing, is often credited with launching the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
“I think a lot of us witness things as bystanders and we experience vicarious trauma. But you can't be better unless you know better and unless you're informed,” Fields said.
Dr. Tara Jae, the founder and executive director of YouthSeen, is a mental health clinician who helps clients process trauma.
“There's been enough videos,” Dr. Jae said. “For me, personally, I'm not going to be watching it. I don't need to watch it because it's going to be the same thing.”
Dr. Jae said the incident itself, and the video capturing it, are traumatic.
“For those who do decide to watch it, I would highly suggest that when you do watch it, that you do take a few moments to kind of sit back… Those emotions are going to come up and, yeah, be able to speak them out. Allow yourself to release them,” she said.
Dr. Jae said the images people consume can have a profound impact on their mental health but ultimately, everyone has to decide for themselves whether to watch or not.
Click here for Denver7's story on the video of this violent arrest.