PHOTOS: Hundreds line up for George Floyd’s memorial in Houston

The casket of George Floyd arrives for a public memorial at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Monday, June 8, 2020. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis Police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Mourners pass by the casket of George Floyd during a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool)
Mourners pass by the casket of George Floyd during a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise church Monday, June 8, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool)
People demonstrate as guest arrive at a public visitation for George Floyd on Monday, June 8, 2020 at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Alejandra Lopez and Norberto Lobez lay a banner over the hood of a hearse while participating in a processional to honor the life of George Floyd, Monday, June 8, 2020, in Long Beach, Calif. People protest over the death of George Floyd who died May 25 after he was restrained by Minneapolis police. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Houston Police Department chief Art Acevedo and assistant chief Sheryl Victorian visit the open casket of George Floyd during a public visitation Monday, June 8, 2020, at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston. (Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle via AP, Pool)

Hundreds of mourners lined up outside a church in George Floyd’s native Houston for a final public viewing Monday as his death two weeks ago at the hands of police continued spurring protesters, leaders and cities around the world into action over demands to address racial injustice and police brutality.

As the doors opened at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, where Floyd spent most of his life, Floyd was lying in an open gold-colored casket, dressed in a brown suit. His body was escorted to what organizers say will be a six-hour public viewing that was expected to draw thousands of mourners.

Mourners, many wearing masks and T-shirts with the words “I Can’t Breathe,” stood 6 feet apart as they paused briefly to view the casket. Some made the sign of the cross as they passed by. On the stage behind the casket were two identical murals of Floyd wearing a black cap that read “Houston” and angel wings drawn behind him.

“With this happening to him, it’s going to make a difference in the world,” said Pam Robinson, who grew up with Floyd in Houston and handed out bottled water to mourners waiting outside in the searing Texas heat. One man in the line, which had no shade, collapsed as temperatures spiked above 90 degrees and was taken by stretcher to a cooling station set up in front of the church.

The mourners came from near and far: Comill Adams said she drove more than seven hours from Oklahoma City with her family, including two children ages 8 and 10. They wore matching black T-shirts with “I Can’t Breathe” on the back — shirts she made up specifically or the memorial.

“We had been watching the protests on TV. We’ve been at home feeling outraged. At times it brought us to tears,” Adams said. “The fact this one is causing change, we had to come be a part of.”

READ MORE: Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped responding. His death has inspired international protests and drawn new attention to the treatment of African Americans by police and the U.S. criminal justice system.

Even as the service began, the impact of his death continued to resonate both at home and abroad. In Paris, France’s top security official said police will no longer conduct choke holds that have been blamed for multiple cases of asphyxiation and have come under renewed criticism after Floyd’s death. And in Washington, Democrats in Congress proposed a sweeping overhaul of police oversight and procedures, a potentially far-reaching legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

Before Floyd’s casket arrived, workers outside the church assembled a large floral arrangement with white roses on one side in the shape of a heart and with the initials “BLM,” for Black Lives Matter, created from blue roses and placed on top of the heart. The other side of the floral arrangement was made up of red roses and appeared to be in the shape of a raised fist.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was among the first to view the casket and planned to meet privately with the family later. He wore a striped gold and crimson tie, the colours of Floyd’s Houston high school.

“George Floyd is going to change the arc of the future of the United States. George Floyd has not died in vain. His life will be a living legacy about the way that America and Texas responds to this tragedy,” Abbott said.

A majority of the Minneapolis City Council has vowed to dismantle the city’s 800-member police agency. On Monday, Derek Chauvin — the officer filmed pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck and one of four to be fired from the department in the aftermath of Floyd’s death — is scheduled to make his first court appearance since the charge against him was upgraded to second-degree murder.

In Washington House and Senate Democrats held a moment of silence at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall before proposing legislative changes in policing oversight, reading the names of George Floyd and others killed during police interactions. They knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — now a symbol of police brutality and violence — the length of time prosecutors say Floyd was pinned under a white police officer’s knee before he died.

The Justice in Policing Act would limit legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force incidents and ban police choke holds, among other changes, according to an early draft. It is the most ambitious change to law enforcement sought by Congress in years.

Floyd’s funeral will be Tuesday, followed by burial at the Houston Memorial Gardens cemetery in suburban Pearland, where he will be laid to rest next to his mother, Larcenia Floyd.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden planned to travel to Houston to meet with Floyd’s family and will provide a video message for Floyd’s funeral service. Previous memorials have taken place in Minneapolis and Raeford, North Carolina, near where Floyd was born.

Cities imposed curfews as several protests last week were marred by spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. More than 10,000 people have been arrested around the country since protests began, according to reports tracked by The Associated Press. Videos have surfaced of officers in riot gear using tear gas or physical force against even peaceful demonstrators.

But U.S. protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful — and over the weekend, several police departments appeared to retreat from aggressive tactics.

Several cities have also lifted curfews, including Chicago and New York City, where the governor urged protesters to get tested for the coronavirus and to proceed with caution until they had. Leaders around the country have expressed concern that demonstrations could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.

Floyd was raised in Houston’s Third Ward and was a well-known former high school football player who rapped with local legend DJ Screw. He moved to Minneapolis several years ago to seek work and a fresh start. His face now appears on a mural in his old neighbourhood, and his name was chanted by tens of thousands last week at a protest and march in downtown Houston.

ALSO READ: Amid anti-racism protests, Trudeau promises to push police body cameras with premiers

Juan A. Lozano And Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

PoliceracismUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Everyone should be aware of the Labour Day movement

My hat is off to Tyson Whitney for his article on Labour Day.

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

BC Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

Transformative ‘Centre of Hope’ coming to Port Hardy

With the new building, the Salvation Army will be able to run the shelter year long.

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Most Read