Mourners converged in Minneapolis on Thursday for the first in a series of a memorials to George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police has sparked turbulent protests around the world against racial injustice.
The afternoon event was set for North Central University, where the civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton was scheduled to be among those eulogizing the 46-year-old Floyd.
“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 was occurring,” Sharpton said ahead of the gathering.
Inside the sanctuary, a golden casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and an image was projected above the pulpit of a mural painted at the street corner where Floyd was pinned to the ground by police. The sanctuary normally seats 1,000, but because of the coronavirus outbreak, the capacity was reduced to about 500.
Memorials are set to take place in three cities over six days: After the Minneapolis event, Floyd’s 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 Monday in Houston, where he was raised and lived most of his life. Then a 500-person service will take place Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church.
The farewells for Floyd — an out-of-work bouncer who was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store and died after a white officer pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes — come as demonstrations across the U.S. and around the globe continue.
In the U.S., where protests had been marked by bouts of lawlessness earlier in the week, relative quiet continued for a second straight night Wednesday following a decision by prosecutors to charge the three other Minneapolis officers at the scene of Floyd’s death with aiding and abetting a murder.
Authorities also filed a new, more serious murder charge — second-degree, up from third-degree — against the officer at the centre of the case, Derek Chauvin.
If convicted, they could get 40 years in prison.
The three officers newly charged in the Floyd’s death — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — were due to make a first court appearance Thursday. Chauvin is not due in court until Monday.
Meantime, in Georgia, a white father and son charged in another killing of a black man that has raised racial tensions in the U.S. made a court appearance Thursday via video. A state investigator testified that the man accused of shooting Ahmaud Arbery, Travis McMichael, uttered a racist epithet as he stood over Arbery’s body.