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George Floyd laid to rest amid call for racial justice in US

By Seema Hakhu Kachru
Last updated on: June 10, 2020 11:01 IST
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African-American George Floyd, whose custodial killing stoked widespread protests in the United States and other countries over racial injustice, was laid to rest following a funeral service at a Church in Houston that was attended by over 500 mourners.

IMAGE: A mourner kneels as the motorcade passes which contains George Floyd's body after the funeral for George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis police custody has sparked nationwide protests against racial inequality, at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas. Photograph: Go Nakamura/Reuters

Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 after white police officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed and pinned him to the ground, and knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while the 46-year-old from Houston gasped for breath.

The footage, which went viral, showed Floyd pleading with the officer, saying he can't breathe. The four police officers seen in the footage have since been charged.

 

Floyd's death has sparked nationwide violent protests with some protesters resorting to looting and rioting across the country, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

His body arrived in Houston late on Saturday for funeral service and burial is scheduled for Tuesday amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, a white horse-drawn carriage transported Floyd's golden casket during the final mile of his funeral procession, towards the cemetery, to be buried next to his mother.

IMAGE: Pallbearers recess out of the church with the casket following the funeral for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas. Photograph: Godofredo A Vasquez/Pool/Reuters

The funeral service was attended by over 500 mourners, who remembered him fondly.

The funeral capped six days of mourning for Floyd in three cities: Raeford, North Carolina-- near where he was born, Houston-- where he grew up and Minneapolis-- where he died.

For the last two weeks, Floyd has become a household name and is synonymous with a worldwide movement to end racism.

During Tuesday's services, a raw glimpse was provided of the man, whose death has sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice.

IMAGE: The horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket containing the body of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis police custody has sparked nationwide protests against racial inequality, is seen on its way to Houston Memorial Gardens cemetery in Pearland, Texas. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

The intimate service showed the world that beyond the marches and rallies, Floyd was a father, a brother, a nephew, an athlete, a mentor, a friend and now a catalyst for change.

Hundreds gathered along the procession route and outside the cemetery entrance in the heat.

Dozens of Floyd's family members, most dressed in white, took part in the four-hour service. One of the singers was Grammy-winning singer Ne-Yo, who sang "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye (To Yesterday).

The celebrity mourners also included actors Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, JJ Watt of the NFL's Houston Texans, rapper Trae tha Truth, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who brought the crowd to its feet when he announced he will sign an executive order banning chokeholds in the city.

IMAGE: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo raises his hand during the funeral procession of George Floyd, ahead of the burial at the Houston Memorial Gardens cemetery in Pearland, Texas. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

The well-received announcement was greeted with a standing ovation as hundreds of mourners applauded as Turner continued.

"In this city, we will require de-escalation," Turner said.

"In this city, you have to give a warning before you shoot. In this city, you have a duty to intervene. In this city, we will require comprehensive reporting. In this city, you must exhaust all alternatives before shootings, and there will be other things in this executive order."

IMAGE: A man draws an image of George Floyd during the funeral service for Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston. Photograph: David J Phillip/Pool/Reuters

Former United States Vice President Joe Biden met with Floyd's family privately on Monday. A video message from him offering condolence was played during the service as he could not attend the funeral on Tuesday.

"I know you have a lot of questions that no child should have to ask, questions that too many black children have had to ask for generations: Why? Why is Daddy gone?” Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, said, addressing Floyd's six-year-old daughter in a video eulogy played at the service.

“Now is the time for racial justice. That's the answer we must give to our children when they ask why,” he said.

While Biden made no mention of his opponent in November, but other speakers took swipes at US President Donald Trump, who has ignored demands to address racial bias and has called on authorities to crack down hard on lawlessness.

IMAGE: Singer Ne-Yo performs during the funeral for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston. Photograph: Godofredo A Vasquez/Pool/Reutes

Floyd's 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, who doesn't know how her father died, attended the service with her mother and their attorney.

"Dad changed the world," she said during a recent demonstration in Minneapolis.

Roxie Washington, Gianna's mother, said she couldn't bring herself to explain what happened.

"She said, 'I hear them. I hear them saying my daddy's name.' She doesn't know what happened. I told her that her dad died because he couldn't breathe," Washington said during an interview with "Good Morning America."

IMAGE: Actors Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx attend a funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston. Photograph: David J Phillip/Pool/Reuters

Texas Southern University sought to honour his memory by granting his daughter, Gianna with a full scholarship to study at the university.

“The Board (of Regents), in conjunction with the TSU Foundation Board, has approved a fund to provide a full scholarship to Floyd's beloved daughter, Gianna,” the university announced in a press release.

Floyd served nearly five years in prison for robbery with a deadly weapon before becoming a mentor and a church outreach volunteer in Houston.

He moved to Minnesota several years ago through a program that tried to change men's lives by helping them find work in new settings.

IMAGE: A woman cries as the horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket containing the body of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis police custody has sparked nationwide protests against racial inequality, passes by, in Pearland, Texas. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

At the time of his death, Floyd was out of work as a bouncer at a Minneapolis club that had closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

He was seized by police after being accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.

Four Minneapolis officers were arrested in his death: Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old police officer, was charged with second-degree murder.

Three others -- J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao -- were charged with aiding and abetting. All four could get up to 40 years in prison.

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Seema Hakhu Kachru
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