Mourners wept, prayed and sang, “Amazing Grace” as they looked upon the large colorful mural of George Floyd projected above his gold casket covered in purple, white, and green flowers.
Politicians, civil rights leaders and celebrities joined Floyd’s family, Thursday at a private memorial service in a sanctuary at North Central University in Minneapolis to honor his life.
Mourners wore mask, some with the words, “I can’t breathe” on them, a few of the last words Floyd said before he died.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis man, died on Memorial Day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes when he was arrested for suspicion of forgery outside a deli. Following his tragic death, protests have been happening nationwide as well as in numerous countries around the world to stop police brutality and racism against black people.
During the memorial service, one of the most powerful moments occurred near the end of the ceremony as attendees stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
“That’s how long he was laying there,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization.
Sharpton delivered the eulogy during the 90-minute service.
Sharpton, the host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” added: “What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country — in education, in health services and in every area of American life. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name, ‘Get your knee off our necks!'”
Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder. In addition, the three other Minneapolis police officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — who were also fired for their involvement in Floyd’s death have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.
While speaking, Sharpton announced plans for a march in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, the anniversary of the original March on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“We need to go back to Washington and stand up — black, white, Latino, Arab — in the shadows of Lincoln and tell them, ‘This is the time to stop this,'” Sharpton said.
During the service, it was revealed that Floyd had tested positive for coronavirus in April, but the family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump said that wasn’t what killed him.
“It was the other pandemic that we’re far too familiar with in America, that pandemic of racism and discrimination that killed George Floyd,” he called out.
The mood changed as Floyd’s family remember their loved one. Floyd’s younger brother Philonise Floyd spoke during the service and remembered the effects his brother had on people.
“We didn’t have much. Our mom did what she could. We would sleep in the same bed,” he said.
Floyd’s brother described how the family grew up poor, but had everything they needed. They enjoyed banana-and-mayonnaise sandwiches made by their mother and washed clothes in a bathroom sink before drying them over a water heater or an oven.
His sister, Bridgett Floyd says she will miss his hugs, “because he was the big sweet giant.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, comedian Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, rappers T.I. and Ludacris, were among the mourners who attended services.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson prayed for several moments over Floyd’s casket.
North Central University President Scott Hagan announced that he has so far raised $53,000 towards a scholarship that will be created in Floyd’s name to support young black leaders. Hagan also called on colleges and universities to create a scholarship as well to honor Floyd’s memory.
Floyd’s death has sparked protests across America, with police at times clashing with demonstrators. Looters have infiltrated the protests in the evening hours and destroyed retail stores in cities across the country.
President Donald Trump has vowed to bring the clashes under control, and he even threatened to send military forces into U.S. cities, if necessary.
The Minneapolis memorial is first of three around the country. After the service Floyd’s body will be flown to Raeford, North Carolina, where Floyd was born, for a public viewing and private family service on Saturday. Another public viewing will be held in Houston Texas, where Floyd grew up and lived much of his life, before a private burial there.