Houston said farewell to George Floyd in a rousing hometown funeral on Tuesday, with poignant tributes and calls for justice for the 46-year-old Black man whose death “touched the world” and ignited global protests against police brutality and racism.
Politicians, civil rights activists and celebrities joined in sharing memories of the man they called a “gentle giant” after his golden casket was carried into the sanctuary by six pallbearers in masks, as a row of police officers stood at attention and saluted.
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton delivered a fierce eulogy, punctuated by the deep chords of a church organ, in which he accused President Donald Trump of showing indifference over Floyd’s death, and sending police a signal of impunity.
Acknowledging the presence of the parents of previous victims of police violence – including Eric Garner, Botham Jean and Michael Brown – Sharpton said they “know better than anyone else the pain” of the Floyd family.
“Until we know the price for black life is the same as the price for white life, we’re going to keep coming back to these situations over and over again,” the preacher told The Fountain of Praise Church in southern Houston.
Though the occasion was solemn, the church echoed with music and words of fond remembrance for a man whose savage death galvanised a movement.
“Even in a pandemic, people are walking out in the streets not even following social distancing because you’ve touched the world,” Sharpton said.
“And as we lay you to rest today, the movement won’t rest until we get justice.”
Floyd died on May 25 as a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into his neck for almost nine minutes, his pleas of “I can’t breathe,” becoming a rallying cry for protesters.
Some 500 guests, all wearing masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, were at the funeral, including actors Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, filmmaker Tyler Perry, singer Ne-Yo and boxing champion Floyd Mayweather who is reportedly paying all expenses.