George Floyd eulogised at Minneapolis memorial service

Updated Jun 05 2020

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MINNEAPOLIS: Reverend Al Sharpton speaks during the memorial service for George Floyd on Thursday.—Reuters
MINNEAPOLIS: Reverend Al Sharpton speaks during the memorial service for George Floyd on Thursday.—Reuters

MINNEAPOLIS: Holly­wood celebrities and the politically powerful filed into a sanctuary in front of the casket of George Floyd for a memorial service on Thursday as mourners began a three-city farewell to the man who was anonymous in life but sparked global protests for justice in death.

The service unfolded at North Central University as a judge a few blocks away set bail at $750,000 each for the three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting his murder.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black bouncer, died on May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on his neck for several minutes as he lay handcuffed on the pavement, gasping that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin has been charged with murder, and he and the others could get up to 40 years in prison.

From coast to coast, and from Paris and London to Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, his death has set off turbulent and sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality, racism and inequality.

“He was a human being. He had family, he had dreams, he had hopes. The real duty of one with this type of assignment is to underscore the value of the human life that was taken, which gives the reason the movement is occurring,” civil rights leader the Rev Al Sharpton said ahead of the gathering.

The service drew the Rev Jesse Jackson, Sen Amy Klobuchar and members of Congress, including Reps Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ayana Pressley. Among the celebrities in attendance were Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Marsai Martin.

Inside the sanctuary, the casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and an image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was pinned to the pavement by police. The message on the mural: “I can breathe now.”

The sanctuary normally seats 1,000, but because of the coronavirus outbreak, the capacity was reduced to about 500, and mourners wore masks. Memorials to Floyd are set to take place in three cities over six days: After the Minneapolis event, his body will go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born, for a public viewing and private family service on Saturday.

Next, a public viewing will be held on Monday in Houston, where he was raised and lived most of his life. Then a 500-person service will take place on Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church.

The farewells for Floyd who was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store come as demonstrations around the globe continue.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020