Floyd’s golden casket was taken to the cemetery from a church on the southwest side of the city, where the last of three memorial services was held for Floyd, 46, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
“My mom, if she was here today, I honestly can say this, that she would be on that casket right now trying to get in there with him,” one of Floyd’s brothers, Philonese, said.
Many mourners, including Floyd’s family, dressed in white for the culmination of a long goodbye. They recalled growing up in Cuney Homes in Houston’s Third Ward, part of a big family in a small home in the 180-year-old African-American neighborhood.
“He was a friend, a mentor, a father, a basketball player, a football player but most of all he was a human being,” one of Floyd’s older brothers said. “I been fighting for him and I will keep on fighting for him.”
Floyd’s family vowed to continue leading the “biggest civil rights movement of our time,” an extraordinary public movement that has spurred protests in all 50 states and countless countries around the world.
Perhaps most remarkably, despite wide-eyed allegations of outside agitation and some incidents of actual violence, it has already produced hints of reform in police departments and city halls.
Floyd died after four Minneapolis police officers attempted to arrest him on suspicion of using a forged $20 bill at a convenience store. Officer Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran, restrained Floyd by holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, despite Floyd repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder while three other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting the killing.
“God took the rejected stone and made him the cornerstone of a movement that's gonna change the whole wide world,” Reverend Al Sharpton said as he eulogized Floyd. “This is the beginning of the fight, not the end of the fight. As we lay you to rest today, the movement won’t rest… You fought a good fight. Go on and see momma now. We gon’ fight on.”
Relatives of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were in the audience along with celebrities and politicians. Between gospel music and addresses from Reps. Sheila Jackson (D-TX) and Al Green (D-TX), Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered a video message.
“I know the hole in your hearts,” said Biden, who lost his son to brain cancer 2015. “The numbness you know now will slowly turn into purpose… Unlike most, you must grieve in public and it's a burden, a burden that is now your purpose to change the world for better in the name of George Floyd.”
Biden praised the Floyd family for advocating for equality and police reform after the death of their brother, father, uncle and cousin. And he spoke directly to Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, who was in the audience.
“You’re so brave, daddy’s looking down and he’s so proud of you,” he said.
Floyd’s family were told they had received support from Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, and that Floyd’s name would be added to Sankofa wall in the W.E.B. Dubois Center in Accra, 401 years after Africans were first taken to the United States as slaves.
“We honor him not because he was perfect, but we honor him today because when he took his last breath, the rest of us will now be able to breathe,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said as he announced that the city would ban police chokeholds.
Other cities have made similar changes. New York, D.C and California committed to reforms including a ban on chokeholds, and enhanced police accountability. Members of the Minneapolis city council went a step further, vowing to disband the city Police Department, and replace it with a new model of law enforcement based on community safety.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get eight mins out of my DNA,” Rep. Jackson said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to overcome the words ‘I can’t breathe.’ [But] there will be no more eight minutes and 45 seconds of police brutality. There will be no more eight minutes and 46 seconds of injustice and mistreatment of African-American men at the hands of the laws of this nation.”
The service was the last memorial for Floyd after one held in Minneapolis and a second in Raeford, North Carolina, near his birthplace.