D’Auriel Epiphany wanted to provide Philadelphia skaters with a platform to express their feelings about Nichols and police violence, whether by skating, speaking out or just being in their community.
Skaters from all over gathered Sunday at Paine’s Park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art to hold a vigil in memory of Tyre Nichols and form bonds with one another.
D’Auriel Epiphany, 28, a member of xyr queer-focused skate club Rolling with the Homos, who goes by the pronouns xe/xem/xyr, assisted in planning the event. Xe collaborated with the political group Food Not Bombs, bringing skaters together to listen to Run the Jewels and Lupe Fiasco music, eat Cheez-Its and converse, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It’s frustration, sadness, pain, grief,” Epiphany said, according to The Inquirer. “We talked about [these things] every time someone passes away [like Nichols] … nothing has really changed, and that’s very frustrating and heartbreaking.”
Nichols, a 29-year-old skateboarder and father to a 4-year-old boy, died three days after being barely beaten by five Memphis Police officers last month. Now-former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith are out on bond after pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
For Sunday’s event, Epiphany wanted to provide Philadelphia skaters a platform to express their feelings about Nichols’ deadly assault and police violence overall, whether by skating, speaking out or just being in their community.
Following an hour of skating and fellowshipping, attendees gathered around the Paine’s Park stairs as Bryce Patterson asked for a moment of silence and took the microphone. Patterson addressed his community regarding Nichols, American policing and the feelings he and others were experiencing.
He compared Nichols’ passing and that of Tortuguita, an activist killed by police last month while opposing the development of Atlanta’s “Cop City” complex.
“We need to think about that,” Patterson said, The Inquirer reported. “It tells us something … [police] will never be for us.”
When Patterson finished, the skaters walked from the steps to a makeshift memorial for Nichols erected in the park. The skateboard deck was topped with four tall candles, and thick tree branches enclosed the area around them.
“It could be any one of us,” said Patterson, who painted a portrait of Nichols last month, The Inquirer reported. “We’re here to represent someone who was just like us.”
The vigil was attended by Mayowa Ogun, 31, who wore black roller skates with rainbow-colored laces. He recalled the moments right after learning of Nichols’ death, sharing how he couldn’t bring himself to watch the graphic footage or pay attention to the news reports. Like him, Nichols was a Black man who loved to skate, Ogun said, so it was hard for him. He didn’t, however, want to disregard Nichols or people who opposed police violence.
Vanessa Mora also shared her reason for coming to the skateboarders’ vigil on Sunday, noting the small, intimate ambiance. Mora found larger demonstrations against police brutality that were more emotional and threatening, but Nichols’ vigil was much more accessible.
“This is just one of those events I can see people,” said Mora, The Inquirer reported. “It’s welcoming.”
During the vigil, skateboarder Jared Griffin mentioned seeing the footage of Nichols’ murder and claimed it was so graphic that he had advised some friends not to watch it.
“I had a hard time processing it,” he said, “that’s somebody who also skated and that makes it really real for me.”
Still, Griffin said it’s important to show up as a member of the community.
“It’s important that people see that other people care,” Griffin added, The Inquirer reported. “I don’t intend on speaking, but it empowers people when [others] are listening.”
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