Houston - Thousands of mourners braved
sweltering Texas heat on Monday to view the casket of George
Floyd, whose death after a police officer knelt on his neck
ignited worldwide protests against the mistreatment of African
Americans and other minorities by US law enforcement.
American flags fluttered along the route to the Fountain of
Praise church in Houston, where Floyd grew up, as throngs of
mourners wearing face coverings to prevent spread of the
coronavirus formed a procession to pay final respects.
People wait in line to pay their respect to George Floyd during a public memorial service at Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP
Solemnly filing through the church in two parallel lines,
some mourners bowed their heads, others made the sign of the
cross or raised a fist, as they paused in front of Floyd's open
casket. More than 6 300 people took part in the visitation,
which ran for more than six hours, church officials said.
Fire officials said several people, apparently overcome by
heat exhaustion while waiting in line, were taken to hospitals.
"I'm glad he got the send-off he deserved," Marcus Williams,
a 46-year-old black resident of Houston, said outside the
church. "I want the police killings to stop. I want them to
reform the process to achieve justice, and stop the killing."
The public viewing came two weeks to the day after Floyd's
death was captured by an onlooker's video. As a white police
officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, an unarmed
and handcuffed Floyd, 46, lay face down on a Minneapolis street,
gasping for air and groaning for help, before falling silent.
The case was reminiscent of the 2014 killing of another
African American, Eric Garner, who died after being placed by
police in a chokehold while under arrest in New York City.
The dying words of both men, "I can't breathe," have become
a rallying cry in a global outpouring of rage, drawing crowds by
the thousands to the streets despite health hazards from the
Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis police custody has sparked nationwide protests against racial inequality, is held by Reverend Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump as he gets emotional during a speech. Picture: Adrees Latif/Reuters
The demonstrations stretched into a third week on Monday.
"Even though it is a risk to come out here, I think it has
been a very positive experience. You hear the stories, you feel
the energy," Benedict Chiu, 24, told Reuters at an outdoor
memorial service in Los Angeles.
"I'm here to protest the mistreatment of our black bodies.
It's not going to stop unless we keep protesting," said Erica
Corley, 34, one of hundreds attending a gathering in the
Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.
As the public viewing unfolded in Houston, Derek Chauvin,
44, the police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck and is charged
with second-degree murder, made his first court appearance in
Minneapolis by video link. A judge ordered his bail raised from
$1 million to $1.25 million.
Mourners pass by the casket of George Floyd during a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J. Phillip/Pool/AP
Chauvin's co-defendants, three fellow officers accused of
aiding and abetting Floyd's murder, were previously ordered held
on $750,000 to $1 million bond each.
All four were dismissed from the police department the day
after Floyd's death.
Unleashed amid pent-up anxiety and despair inflicted by a
pandemic that has hit minority communities especially hard, the
demonstrations have reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter
movement and thrust demands for racial justice and police
reforms to the top of America's political agenda ahead of the
November 3 presidential election.
Protests in a number of US cities were initially
punctuated by episodes of arson, looting and clashes with
police, deepening a political crisis for President Donald Trump
as he repeatedly threatened to order the military into the
streets to help restore order.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott passes by the casket of George Floyd during a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J. Phillip/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is
challenging the Republican Trump in the election, met with
Floyd's relatives for more than an hour in Houston on Monday,
according to the family's lawyer, Benjamin Crump.
"He listened, heard their pain and shared in their woe,"
Crump said. "That compassion meant the world to this grieving
family." Floyd was due to be buried on Tuesday.
In Washington, Democrats in Congress unveiled legislation to
make lynching a federal hate crime and to allow victims of
police misconduct and their families to sue law enforcement for
damages in civil court, ending a legal doctrine known as
The bill also would ban chokeholds and require the use of
body cameras by federal law enforcement officers, place new
restrictions on the use of lethal force and facilitate
independent probes of police departments that show patterns of
The legislation does not call for police departments to be
de-funded or abolished, as some activists have demanded. But
lawmakers called for spending priorities to change.
Trump "is appalled by the defund-the-police movement," White
House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told a media briefing. She
said Trump was weighing various proposals in response to Floyd's
Biden opposes the movement to defund police departments but
supports the "urgent need" for reform, a spokesman for his
presidential campaign said.
A high-spirited atmosphere that prevailed over a series of
mass demonstrations during the weekend was marred late on Sunday
when a man drove a car into a rally in Seattle and then shot and
wounded a demonstrator who confronted him. The suspect, Nikolas
Fernandez, was charged on Monday with assault.
Separately, a man described by prosecutors as an admitted
member of the Ku Klux Klan and "propagandist for Confederate
ideology," was arrested on suspicion of driving his pickup truck
into a rally near Richmond, Virginia, late on Sunday. The
suspect, Harry H. Rogers, 36, was charged with assault and
battery, malicious wounding and felony vandalism.