Hundreds of teary-eyed mourners wearing attended the solemn funeral service of George Floyd, whose custodial killing led to widespread protests in the US and other countries against police brutality and racial injustice.
Floyd, an African-American, was laid to rest on Tuesday as hymns played in the background and his friends and family shared personal stories about him and made impassioned pleas for racial justice in America.
Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 when a white police officer pinned him to the ground and knelt on his neck while the 46-year-old 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, leaving behind a trail of destruction.
His body arrived in Houston on Saturday for the funeral service amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.
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.
Braving the scorching heat, mourners started gathering outside the church early in the morning to have a last glimpse of Floyd, whose name has become a global chant for people fighting racial injustice.
The service was attended by over 500 mourners, who remembered him fondly.
One of Floyd’s brothers, who attended the service, termed him as his own “personal superman”.
“I’m going to miss my brother a whole lot. I love you and thank God for giving me my own personal superman,” Floyd’s brother was quoted as saying by the Texas Tribune.
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.
During Tuesday’s service, a raw glimpse was provided of the man, whose death has sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice.
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.
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.
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.”
Former Vice-president Joe Biden, who met with Floyd’s family privately on Monday, could not attend the funeral but a video message from him offering condolence was played during the service.
“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 6-year-old daughter.
“Now is the time for racial justice,” he said. “When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.
While Biden made no mention of his opponent in the November elections, other speakers took swipes at President Donald Trump, who has ignored demands to address racial bias and has called on authorities to crack down hard on lawlessness.
Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, 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 a media interview.
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.
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 US$20 bill at a convenience store.
White police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, while others were charged with aiding and abetting. All four could get up to 40 years in prison.
The remains of George Floyd were brought by horse-drawn carriage in a funeral procession into Houston Memorial Gardens Cemetery for burial on June 9 in Pearland, Texas.