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Oakland Tech protest

Anger and sadness over Tyre Nichols’ death prompts students to walk out and protest at Oakland Tech

on February 6, 2023

Hundreds of Oakland Technical High School students skipped classes, cordoned off 45th Street and Broadway, played music with themes of anti-police brutality, and painted murals Monday to honor Tyre Nichols, who died Jan. 10 after being beaten by Memphis police officers.

“Hey hey! Ho ho! White supremacy has got to go!” they chanted, outside the school building.

Nichols’ death has led to a spate of protests across the country. After attending a protest last week led by the Anti-Police Terror Project, Satya Zamudio, an 18-year-old Oakland Tech senior, said she and her friend Georgia Wallace were inspired to replicate the social action. 

Oakland Tech protest
Satya Zamudio, one of the organizers of a Tyre Nichols’ tribute at Oakland Tech. (Aneta Felix)

“After the protest, we were just feeling anger and sadness and we decided we wanted to do something with our school,” she said. “Me and my friends rallied, we reached out to different organizations like Anti-Police Terror Project, Youth Versus Apocalypse, CURYJ, and we asked for resources to get this done.”

When Ray’Von Jones, a former Oakland Tech teacher who now is a program manager at Communities United for Restorative Justice or CURYJ, heard of Zamudio’s plan to organize a vigil and block party for Nichols, she gave her full support.

“It’s not easy as a student to organize something like this, so we’re really just here in solidarity, supporting with whatever they need,” Jones said. “But they’re running the show.”

Jones said the students meant for the action to be disruptive, noting, “The point of an act of civil disobedience is to disobey a rule which is like being in school.”

Oakland Tech protest
Amadi Reyes, Oakland Technical High senior

Zamudio and other students said school officials tried to keep students from leaving the building. Senior Amadi Reyes said she moved a table to get out of a door.

“I wanted to get out of school to join the protest because if this were to happen to me, I would want someone to come protest about it, make a statement and get justice,” she said. 

In a Feb. 3 statement, the Memphis Police Department said officers had stopped Nichols, 29, at about 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 on suspicion of reckless driving. After what police described as confrontations with them, Nichols attempted to flee on foot, but he was caught, tased, beaten and hospitalized. Three days later, he died. Five of the six officers involved in Nichols’ arrest have been fired and charged with second-degree murder, assault and kidnapping. 

At Oakland Tech, Kyle Darna said he was protesting because as a Black teenager, he could relate to Nichols and could imagine himself or his friends being in that situation. “It’s life, and it shouldn’t be taken, especially the way it was,” he said.


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