Protest erupts at Wegmans in response to Tyre Nichols’ death, Binghamton ‘kneeling incident’

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 8:58 PM EST
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JOHNSON CITY (WBNG) -- Dozens of protesters rallied in front of Wegmans in Johnson City Wednesday evening as outrage over the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man, at the hands of Memphis Police takes over the country.

Yet, Nichols’ death hits especially close to home for Binghamtonians and members of the local community. In early January, a video of a Binghamton Police Officer kneeling on the neck of a man outside of Dillinger’s Irish Pub surfaced on social media, sparking frustration from activists.

The protest was just one of a few the Binghamton area witnessed since Jan. 1. They began when Hamail Waddell, a Black-Asian man, filed a complaint with the Binghamton Police Department a day after the kneeling incident. Since then, protests appeared at Binghamton City Hall and at Binghamton City School and City Council meetings.

Wednesday’s protest began at 7 p.m. Protesters vented their frustrations over the two police-involved incidents.

“There is precedent for what is happening here,” said one protestor into a megaphone. “This community cares about Black folks but the people who shop here and the people who have access to this community are largely blind to what happens to us on the streets.”

Around 7:20 p.m., officers from the Johnson City, Binghamton, Endicott, Broome County Sheriff and State Police announced Wegmans requested the removal of the protesters. Law enforcement offered an alternative place to peacefully protest. When protesters did not leave, officers began to make arrests.

Protesters swore, said slurs and made obscene gestures toward police. Some chanted, “our streets” a phrase often used at demonstrations against police brutality. One protester was seen bleeding from their forehead; an officer helped administer an inhaler to them.

By 7:35 p.m., the scene de-escalated and according to police, Wegmans had closed its store. It normally closes at midnight. Police turned cars away at the entrance of the parking lot.

Johnson City Police Chief Brent Dodge announced Thursday morning that 14 people were arrested in total. He said the charges include resisting arrest and trespassing. He said a few officers sustained minor injuries.

The five police officers, all of whom are Black, that beat Nichols up to death were indicted on a murder charge and have been fired from their positions with the Memphis Police Department. A sixth officer, who is white, had been disciplined for his involvement.

The Binghamton Police Department assigned the officer who was seen kneeling on the man’s neck on New Year’s Day was assigned desk duty as internal and state investigations are underway. The identity of that officer has yet to be confirmed by city officials.