Hundreds pack Houston church for George Floyd funeral

Hundreds pack Houston church for George Floyd funeral

Hundreds of mourners packed a Houston church Tuesday for the private funeral of George Floyd, to be followed by burial, capping six days of mourning for the black man whose death inspired a global reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice.

“George Floyd was not expendable. This is why we’re here,” Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas told the crowd at the Fountain of Praise Church. “His crime was that he was born Black. That was his only crime. George Floyd deserved the dignity and respect that we accord all people just because they are children of a common God.”

Following the funeral, Floyd’s body was to be taken by horse-drawn carriage to a cemetery in suburban Pearland, Texas, where he was to be laid to rest next to his mother.

The 46-year-old father, athlete and avid sports fan known as Big Floyd cried out for his mother and pleaded he couldn’t breathe as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck May 25. Video of the encounter ignited protests and scattered violence in cities across the U.S. and around the world.

While the service was private, at least 50 people gathered outside the Fountain of Praise Church to pay their respects.

U.S. Rep. Al Green speaks at the funeral service for George Floyd at the Fountain of Praise Church Tuesday in Houston. (David J. Phillip, Pool/The Associated Press)

“There’s a real big change going on and everybody, especially Black, right now should be a part of that,” said Kersey Biagase, who travelled more than three hours from Port Barre, Louisiana, with his girlfriend, Brandi Pickney.

The couple wore matching T-shirts she designed, printed with Floyd’s name and the phrase “I Can’t Breathe,” the words he uttered before his death

Several police officers from Texas Southern University stood guard at the sanctuary entrance, wearing face masks also printed with Floyd’s dying words. The historically Black school is next to the Houston housing project where Floyd grew up.

Mourners also included Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from the Houston area, and the city’s police chief, Art Acevedo. Nearly all the pews were full, with relatively little space between people.

“So much for social distancing today,” the Rev. Remus Wright told mourners, gently but firmly instructing those attending to don face masks because of the pandemic.

Many people fanned themselves with paper fans bearing an image of Floyd.

Dozens of Floyd’s family members, most dressed in white, were led into the sanctuary by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist. They were joined by rapper Trae tha Truth, who helped organize a march last week in Houston attended by 60,000 people.

Floyd “often spoke about being world famous one day, and he has managed to make that happen in his death,” the funeral program said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner brought the crowd to its feet when he announced he will sign an executive order banning police chokeholds in the city. 

Democratic presidential candidate, former vice-president Joe Biden speaks via video link at the funeral. (David J. Phillip, Pool/The Associated Press)

In a video eulogy played at the service, former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, said,”No child should have to ask questions that too many Black children have had to ask for generations: Why?” He continued, “Now is the time for racial justice. That is the answer we must give to our children when they ask why.”

The funeral came one day after about 6,000 people attended a public memorial Monday in Houston, waiting for hours under baking sun to pay their respects to Floyd, whose body lay in an open gold-coloured casket.

Over the past six days, memorials for Floyd were also held in Minneapolis, where he lived in recent years, and Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born.

Members of the Texas Southern University police department pause during the funeral service for Floyd in Houston. (David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

Four Minneapolis officers were charged in connection with Floyd’s death, which was captured on video by bystanders.

Floyd’s death sparked international protests and drew new attention to the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. by police and the criminal justice system. In the past two weeks, sweeping and previously unthinkable things have taken place: Confederate statues have been toppled, police departments around America have rethought the way they patrol minority neighbourhoods, legislatures have debated use-of-force policies, and white, black and brown people have had uncomfortable, sometimes heated, discussions about race in a nation that is supposed to ensure equal opportunity for all.

‘We will get justice’

Calls for police reform have cropped up in many communities, and people around the world have taken to the streets in solidarity, saying that reforms and dialogue must not stop with Floyd’s funeral.

Rev. Al Sharpton, left, speaks with Quincy Mason Floyd, son of George Floyd, before the funeral Tuesday at Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. (Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The memorials have drawn the families of black victims in other high-profile killings whose names have become seared into America’s conversations on race — among them Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.

“It just hurts,” said Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, sobbing as he ticked off some of their names outside The Fountain of Praise church. “We will get justice. We will get it. We will not let this door close.”

For 14 nights, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.

Cities imposed curfews as some of the demonstrations were later marred by spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. More than 10,000 people have been arrested around the country, according to reports tracked by The Associated Press.

But protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful — and over the weekend, several police departments appeared to retreat from aggressive tactics.

On the weekend, a majority of the Minneapolis city council declared their intention to disband the city’s police force. The move comes in response to the killing of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin — a member of that force — and to other local instances of police brutality. Today on Front Burner, we talk about the growing “defund police” movement that says scaling down police budgets and spending the money on social services could be a way to protect civilian lives. 28:33

Published at Tue, 09 Jun 2020 13:25:24 +0000