LOOK: George Floyd hailed as 'cornerstone of a movement' at funeral
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Houston - George Floyd, a black man whose
death under the knee of a white police officer roused worldwide
protests against racial injustice, was memorialised at his
funeral on Tuesday as "an ordinary brother" transformed by fate
into the "cornerstone of a movement."
During a four-hour service broadcast live on every major
US television network from a church in Floyd's boyhood home of
Houston, family members, clergy and politicians exhorted
Americans to turn grief and outrage at his death into a moment
of reckoning for the nation.
Roxie Washington holds Gianna Floyd, the daughter of George Floyd as they attend his funeral service at The Fountain of Praise in Houston. Picture: David J Phillip/Pool via Reuters
The funeral followed two weeks of protests ignited by
graphic video footage of Floyd, 46, handcuffed and lying face
down on a Minneapolis street while an officer kneels into the
back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. The video shows Floyd
gasping for air as he cries out, "Mama," and groans, "Please, I
can't breathe," before falling silent and still.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, has since been charged with
second-degree murder and three other officers with aiding and
abetting Floyd's May 25 death. All were dismissed from the
department a day after the incident.
Picture: David J. Phillip/AP
Floyd's dying words have become a rallying cry for tens of
thousands of protesters around the globe who have since taken to
the streets, undaunted by the coronavirus pandemic, demanding
justice for Floyd and an end to mistreatment of minorities by
US law enforcement.
"I can breathe. And as long as I'm breathing, justice will
be served," Floyd's niece Brooklyn Williams declared in a eulogy
that drew applause from mourners inside the Fountain of Praise
Church in Houston. "This is not just a murder but a hate crime."
Family and guests attend the funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J. Phillip/AP
Williams was one of several relatives and friends, most
dressed all in white, who addressed the service, remembering
Floyd as a loving, larger-than-life personality. The memorial
was punctuated by gospel music and a video montage of shared
memories of the man affectionately known as "Big Floyd."
His younger brother, Terrence Floyd, spoke about awakening
in the middle of the night in recent days traumatiSed by the
memory of seeing his older sibling calling out for their mother
as he lay dying.
LaTonya Floyd speaks during the funeral service for her brother George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J. Phillip/AP
His older brother, Philonise, sobbing in grief, told
mourners, "George was my personal superman."
Taking the stage to deliver the main eulogy, civil rights
activist the Rev. Al Sharpton called Floyd "an ordinary brother"
who grew up in a Houston housing project but left behind a
legacy of greatness despite rejections in jobs and sports that
prevented him from achieving all that he once aspired to become.
"God took the rejected stone and made him the cornerstone of
a movement that is going to change the whole wide world,"
Sharpton said, invoking a biblical parable from the New
Pallbearers recess out of the church with the casket following the funeral for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP
He added that the Floyd family would lead a march on
Washington being organised for August 28 to mark the 57th
anniversary of the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech given from the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial by civil rights leader Martin
Luther King Jr, assassinated in 1968.
About 2 500 people attended the funeral, which followed
memorial services last week in Minneapolis, where Floyd made his
home after leaving Houston, and Raeford, the North Carolina town
where he was born. More than 6 000 people filed past Floyd's
open casket on Monday as he lay in repose inside the church.
"This is a home-going celebration," the Reverend Mia Wright,
co-pastor of the church, told mourners. Banners featured pop
art illustrations of Floyd wearing a baseball cap with a halo
George Floyd's funeral procession arrives at Houston Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Pearland, Texas. Picture: Eric Gay/AP
Two columns of uniformed Houston police officers saluted the
golden casket as it was wheeled from the hearse into the church
before the service. A horse-drawn carriage later bore the coffin
on its last mile to the cemetery in Pearland, Texas, where Floyd
was buried in a private grave-side ceremony.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic
presidential candidate in the November 3 election, addressed the
funeral service via a video recording, lamenting that "too many
black Americans wake up knowing that they could lose their life
in the course of just living their life.”
“We must not turn away. We cannot leave this moment thinking
we can once again turn away from racism,” he said.
George Floyd's casket is moved into a hearse after his funeral service. Picture: David J. Phillip/AP
Two voter registration tables were set up outside the
Among those in attendance were loved ones of several other
black men killed by white police or white civilians.
The mother of Eric Garner, the New York man who died in a
police chokehold in 2014, was present, as was the family of
Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Georgia man who was shot and killed
in February while jogging. Three white men were charged in his
Fallout from Floyd's death, and reaction to a spate of arson
and looting that accompanied some of the otherwise mostly
peaceful protests, also plunged President Donald Trump into one
of the biggest crises of his tenure.
A Republican, Trump repeatedly threatened to order the
military onto the streets to quell protests, focusing on
restoring order while saying little about the US racial wounds
at the root of the upheavals.