Politicians, civil rights legends and pro athletes joined family members at a Minneapolis memorial to mourn George Floyd.
George Floyd’s body lay in a carefully polished gold casket reflecting a struggle and a beauty bigger than any one man.
In the surrounding sanctuary, hundreds of politicians, civic leaders and celebrities gathered Thursday to support a grieving family and pay respects to the 46-year-old black security guard who gasped for air in the final minutes of his life beneath the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. It was a scene that sparked global anger like few police brutality cases before it, challenging a nation to confront its racial disparities and injustices at the hands of law enforcement.
“When I looked this time and saw marches where, in some cases, young whites outnumbered the blacks marching, I know that it’s a different time and a different season,” said national civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, referencing a Bible verse in a eulogy that roused several standing ovations. “Go on home, George. Get your rest, George. You changed the world, George.”
The private service at North Central University, about 3 miles from the site of Floyd’s Memorial Day arrest, followed more than a week of escalating tensions in cities across the nation, his death spurring widespread arson, looting and destruction as well as massive but peaceful protests. It came amid economic hardship and national unrest spurred by a COVID-19 pandemic that’s claimed more than 100,000 lives.
A few of Floyd’s family members spoke with reverence for the man they said they looked up to growing up in Houston.
As he stood behind his brother’s casket, amid displays with Floyd’s image and sprays of white and purple flowers, Philonise Floyd said the family was poor and didn’t have much.
amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts. You know, because he been touching our hearts.”
Cousin Shareeduh Tate said they were raised in a family that welcomed everyone.
“George was somebody who was always welcoming, always making people feel like that they were special. Nobody felt left out,” she said, adding that she will miss his hugs the most.
“He was this great big giant, and when he would wrap his arms around you, you would just feel like … everything would just go away. Any problems you had, any concerns you had would go away.”
All four fired officers charged
As of Wednesday, all four officers involved in the case had been arrested: Officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck in a bystander video that went viral, was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The other three officers on the scene face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said a team of lawyers is working together for the family because it will take “a united effort in the courtroom and outside the courtroom to get justice for George Floyd.”
‘Pandemic of racism’
Floyd wasn’t killed by the coronavirus, Crump told the mask-wearing crowd inside the sanctuary, but by the “other pandemic that we’re far too familiar with in America — that pandemic of racism and discrimination.”
Sharpton’s speech drew both quiet reflection and loud applause from the crowd in the sanctuary, including Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who fired the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest.
Also sitting among them were civil rights leaders Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Celebrities attending the two-hour service included actor Kevin Hart and rappers Master P and Ludacris, along with several members of the Minnesota Vikings and retired NBA standout Stephen Jackson, one of Floyd’s closest friends.