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.

Floyd, who was 46, will be laid to rest next to his mother in Pearland, Texas. On May 25, as a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee on Floyd’s neck, the dying man cried out for his mother.

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

“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.

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

Mourners, including Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, both Democrats from the Houston area, and the city’s police chief, Art Acevedo, filed in. 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.

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.

As the hearse drove away, 39-year-old Daniel Osarobo, a Houston resident who immigrated from Nigeria, could be heard saying, “Rest in power. Rest In Peace.”

“I’ve been stopped by police. I understand the situation. I can only imagine,” said Osarobo, who works as an engineer in the oil and gas industry. “What if it was me? What if it was my brother? What if it was my sister? What if it was my son?”

Those were questions many black Americans have asked not just in recent weeks, but for decades.

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)

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.

A singer performs by Floyd’s casket as mourners arrive for the service on Tuesday. (David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

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