Hundreds line up for George Floyd’s memorial in Houston

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

Hundreds of mourners lined up outside a church in George Floyd’s home town of Houston for a final public viewing.

As the doors opened at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, where Mr Floyd spent most of his life, Mr Floyd was lying in an open gold-coloured coffin, dressed in a brown suit.

His body was escorted to what organisers 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 six feet apart as they paused briefly to view the coffin. Some made the sign of the cross as they passed by.

George Floyd died in Minneapolis two weeks ago. Credit: Twitter/@AttorneyCrump

On the stage behind the coffin were two identical murals of Mr 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 Mr Floyd.

One man in the queue, which had no shade, collapsed as temperatures spiked above 32C (90F) and was taken by stretcher to a cooling station set up in front of the church.

Mr Floyd died on 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 US 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 Mr 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 Mr Floyd’s coffin 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 governor 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 Mr Floyd’s Houston high school.

Texas governor Greg Abbott attended. Credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool

“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,” Mr 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 Mr Floyd’s neck and one of four to be fired from the department in the aftermath of Mr Floyd’s death – made his first court appearance since the charge against him was upgraded to second-degree murder.