Hundreds remember ‘Big Floyd’ at Houston funeral service

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

George Floyd has been lovingly remembered as Big Floyd — a “gentle giant”, a father and brother, athlete and mentor, and now a force for change — at a funeral for the black man whose death has sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice.

Hundreds of mourners wearing masks against coronavirus packed a Houston church a little more than two weeks after Mr Floyd was pinned to the pavement by a white Minneapolis police officer who put a knee on his neck for what prosecutors said was eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Video of the encounter, including Mr Floyd’s pleas of “I can’t breathe”, ignited protests and scattered violence across the US and around the world, turning the 46-year-old into a worldwide symbol of injustice.

His brother Rodney told mourners: “Everybody is going to remember him around the world. He is going to change the world.”

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

The Rev William Lawson, who once marched with the Rev Martin Luther King Jr, said of Mr Floyd: “Out of his death has come a movement, a worldwide movement. But that movement is not going to stop after two weeks, three weeks, a month. That movement is going to change the world.”

“George Floyd was not expendable. This is why we’re here,” Democratic representative Al Green told the crowd at the Fountain of Praise church.

“His crime was that he was born black. That was his only crime. George Floyd deserved the dignity and respect that we accord all people just because they are children of a common God.”

While the service was private, at least 50 people gathered outside to pay their respects. Some held signs with messages including “Black Lives Matter” and “Together because of George Floyd”.

Dozens of Mr Floyd’s family members, most dressed in white, were led into the sanctuary by the Rev Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist.

“The president talks about bringing in the military, but he did not say one word about eight minutes and 46 seconds of police murder of George Floyd,” he said.

“He challenged China on human rights. But what about the human right of George Floyd?”

Mr Lawson added: “Obviously the first thing we have to do is clean out the White House.”

Mourners also included actors Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, rapper Trae tha Truth, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and city mayor Sylvester Turner, who brought the crowd to its feet when he announced he will sign an executive order banning police using choke holds in the city.

The Reverend Al Sharpton also at the funeral, calling for justice to be done following Mr Floyd's death.

"Lives like George will not matter until someone pays the cost for taking their lives," Rev Sharpton said.

Rev Sharpton called on other families who had suffered losses in similar circumstances in attendance to stand up in solidarity.

"All of these families came to stand with this family because they know better than anyone else the pain they will suffer from the loss they have gone through."

Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx attended. Credit: AP

Rev Sharpton added: “All over the world, George, they’re marching with your name.

“You’ve touched the world in South Africa, you’ve touched the world in England, you’ve touched every one of the 50 states. Even in a pandemic, people are walking out in the streets.”

Mourners pay respects to George Floyd during a public visitation. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip, Pool

The tearing down of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol was referenced by Reverend Sharpton.

He said: “Floyd could’ve been anybody, but then the reaction was not anything because somewhere I read in the Bible that God said he would pour out his spirit among all flesh, and that’s why when I heard them talking about they never thought they’d see young whites marching like they’re marching now all over the world.

“I’ve seen grandchildren of slave masters tearing down a slave master statue over in England and put it in the river. I pour out my spirit among all flesh.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in a video eulogy played at the service: “No child should have to ask questions that too many black children have had to ask for generations: Why? Now is the time for racial justice. That is the answer we must give to our children when they ask why.”

The funeral came a day after about 6,000 people attended a public memorial in Houston, waiting for hours under baking sun to pay their respects to Mr Floyd, whose body lay in an open gold-coloured coffin.

Over the past six days, memorials for Mr Floyd have also been held in Minneapolis, where he lived in recent years, and Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born.