Civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton attacked President Donald Trump and vowed not to let those with agendas use George Floyd as prop during his powerful eulogy for the man who was anonymous in life but sparked global protests for justice in death.
Hollywood celebrities, musicians and politicians gathered in front of the Floyd’s golden casket at a fiery memorial Thursday as Rev Sharpton declared it was time for black people to demand: ‘Get your knee off our necks!’
The service – the first in a series of memorials set for three cities over six days – was held at a sanctuary at North Central University as a judge less than a mile away set bail at $750,000 each for three of the four fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in his death.
The memorial drew the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and members of Congress, including Reps. Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ayana Pressley. Among the celebrities in attendance were T.I., Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Marsai Martin.
During his eulogy, Rev Sharpton criticized President Trump’s handling of the protests that have stemmed from Floyd’s death, including how he staged a photo op outside a Washington DC church with a Bible earlier this week.
‘If he’s watching us today, I’d like him to open that Bible. To every season, there’s a time and a purpose,’ Sharpton said.
‘We cannot use Bible’s as a prop. For those that have agendas that are not about justice, this family will not let you use George as a prob.
‘Let us stand for what is right.
‘What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country…. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks.’
George Floyd’s family members surround his golden casket at the Lindquist Sanctuary at the North Central University on Thursday
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivers a passionate address at the memorial of George Floyd at the North Central University in Minneapolis on Thursday
The afternoon event was set for North Central University, where the civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton was scheduled to be among those eulogizing the 46-year-old Floyd
Inside the sanctuary, the casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and an image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was pinned to the pavement by police. The message on the mural: ‘I can breathe now.’
The sanctuary normally seats 1,000, but because of the coronavirus outbreak, the capacity was reduced to about 500, and mourners wore masks.
Floyd’s death has empowered a national movement that has seen widespread demonstrations and civil strife in cities right across the United State to condemn racism and police abuses.
Floyd’s memorial service will be held on Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis where he died at the hands of police last week
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who fired all four police officers now charged in Floyd’s killing, took a knee nearby as his body arrived ahead of the service.
Floyd’s Promethean casket is the same type of custom-made coffin that singers Aretha Franklin and James Brown were laid to rest in.
In an interview with NBC’s Today at the site of the memorial, attorney Ben Crump said the Floyd family don’t want his death to be in vain.
‘It’s going to be a celebration of life, but it’s also going to be a plea to America and a plea for justice that we don’t let his death be in vain,’ Crump said.
‘We have a lot of high profile people coming. We want everybody to use their forces to say no more – we’re tired of dying at the hands of the people supposed to protect us.’
It is the first of three memorial gatherings planned to honor Floyd’s life – the man whose name has been chanted by hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
Floyd’s body will then travel to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born 46 years ago, for a two-hour public viewing and private service for the family on Saturday.
Finally, a public viewing will be held Monday in Houston, where he was raised and lived most of his life. A 500-person service on Tuesday will take place at The Fountain of Praise church and will include addresses from Sharpton, Crump, and the Rev. Remus E. Wright, the family pastor.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, may attend, and other political figures and celebrities are expected as well.
The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, the black man who was shot dead by two white men while out running, will attend Floyd’s memorial in Houston, her attorney Lee Merritt told TMZ.
A private burial will follow.
Due to the coronavirus, Fountain of Praise will be limited to 20 percent of its capacity and visitors will be required to wear masks.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey kneels in front of George Floyd’s gold casket and sobs
Actor Kevin Hart and musician Ludacris are seen during a memorial service for George Floyd on Thursday
Tiffany Haddish, wearing a cheetah print coronavirus mask, sits in a section of VIP seats with producer Will Packer (right) on Thursday at the memorial service
Martin Luther King III and his family pay their respects to George Floyd ahead of his memorial service in Minneapolis
Civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson and his son Jonathan Jackson pray in front of Floyd’s coffin ahead of his service
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (left) and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz arrive ahead of Floyd’s memorial service
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson is pictured at the memorial service for George Floyd on Thursday
Crowds of people surrounded North Central University to pay their respects without being able to go inside
The organizers of the memorials want to acknowledge the meaning Floyd had in life to his large family and the broader meaning he has assumed in death, which happened after a white officer pressed a knee into the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
‘It would be inadequate if you did not regard the life and love and celebration the family wants,’ said the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader who will eulogize Floyd in two cities.
‘But it would also be inadequate… if you acted as though we’re at a funeral that happened under natural circumstances.
‘The family is not independent of the community. The family wants to see something happen.’
Both the memorials in Minneapolis and Houston will include personal tributes and eulogies about social justice, Sharpton said.
Floyd’s final journey was designed with intention, Sharpton said. Having left Houston for Minneapolis in 2014 in search of a job and a new life, Floyd will retrace that path.
‘They collectively said we need to make the first memorial statement from the city he chose to go to make a living, that ended his life,’ he said.
The memorial services to honor Floyd are extraordinary but so are the circumstances surrounding them.
Since his May 25 death in Minneapolis, Floyd’s name has been chanted by hundreds of thousands of people and empowered a movement.
Violent encounters between police, protesters, and observers have inflamed a country already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
George Floyd’s body was taken to the North Central University in Minneapolis on Thursday ahead of the first of three services that will be held in the different cities over the next six days
Floyd’s death has empowered a national movement that has seen widespread demonstrations and civil strife in cities right across the United State to condemn racism and police abuses
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who fired all four police officers now charged in Floyd’s killing, took a knee nearby as his body arrived ahead of the service
His casket was taken into the service with a cover brandishing a Promethean logo – the same type of custom-made coffin that singers Aretha Franklin and James Brown were laid to rest in
This will be the first of three memorial gatherings planned to honor Floyd’s life – the man whose name has been chanted by hundreds of thousands of people across the country
Since his May 25 death in Minneapolis, Floyd’s name has been chanted by hundreds of thousands of people and empowered a movement
Attorney Ben Crump told NBC on Thursday that George Floyd’s family don’t want his death to be in vain. He said Floyd’s memorial will be a celebration of his life but also a plea to America and a plea for justice
Floyd’s death has empowered a national movement that has seen widespread demonstrations and civil strife in cities right across the United State to condemn racism and police abuses. Pictured above is the memorial at the place where Floyd was killed
The service on Thursday is the first of three memorial gatherings planned to honor Floyd’s life – the man whose name has been chanted by hundreds of thousands of people across the country
Floyd’s memorial on Thursday will take place around the same time three Minneapolis police officers who were at the scene, but did not intervene, will face court for the first time.
It comes as prosecutors on Wednesday leveled new criminal charges against all four policemen implicated in Floyd’s death after he was filmed being pinned by his neck to the street during an arrest.
Derek Chauvin, who was jailed Friday on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, was newly charged with second-degree murder.
He was the white officer seen in widely circulated video footage kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd gasped for air and repeatedly groaned, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’
Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – the three fellow officers fired from the Minneapolis police department along with Chauvin the next day – were charged on Wednesday with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Floyd’s family attorney said his relatives were relieved to hear all four officers had been charged.
‘They had a sense of relief… they were very thankful,’ Crump said. ‘George Floyd’s family and many others believe the charge should be first degree, however, we’re relieved (it’s been upgraded).
Crump said he didn’t believe the additional charges would have been brought if it were not for the widespread protests over the past week.
‘I don’t think we would have seen those charges. There’s evidence for these charges. There’s always evidence for many of these cases when white police kill black people, they just never get charged,’ he said.
Following the charges, demonstrations seen over the past week across the US remained large but turned notably more subdued.
In many cities, demonstrators defying nighttime curfews have been met by police in riot gear firing tear gas, mace and rubber bullets to disperse unruly crowds.
National Guard troops have been activated in several states to assist local law enforcement.
Derek Chauvin, who was jailed Friday on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, was newly charged with second-degree murder (left). Tou Thao (right) charged on Wednesday with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter
J.A. Kueng (left) and Thomas Lane (right) were also charged on Wednesday with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter
Minnesota AG says he hasn’t ruled out FIRST degree murder charges Derek Chauvin
The Minnesota Attorney General said on Thursday he has not ruled out bringing first degree murder charges against Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, and that he would prosecute ‘anything the facts allow’.
Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and third degree manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25 while arresting for him for allegedly using a fake $20 bill.
Three other officers who helped Chauvin subdue Floyd – Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao, were charged with aiding and abetting murder on Wednesday afternoon after a groundswell of outrage around the world, demanding that they be brought to justice.
All four now face 40 years prison terms if convicted. Floyd’s family want to see Chauvin’s charge increased to first degree murder that could put him away for life.
To prosecute second degree unintentional homicide, which is what Chauvin is currently charged with, the prosecutors must convince a jury he intended to harm Floyd, but not that he necessarily intended to kill him.
To prosecute first degree murder charges, they must prove he planned to kill him.
In an appearance on Good Morning America on Thursday morning, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison – who was given the case by the governor on Monday after public faith in local prosecutors dwindled – said it was not out of the question.
Minnesota AG Keith Ellison said on Thursday morning that he had not yet ruled out first degree murder charges against Derek Chauvin, the cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes
‘We will charge anything that the facts and the law allow. We are not showing fear or favor to any person. If the facts show premeditiation and deliberation and we can present that in front of a jury in good faith, we will present that,’ he said.
Asked whether or not he currently had the evidence to bring a first degree murder charge against Chauvin, he said: ‘I wouldn’t want to comment on what I have or don’t have – we’ve charged the highest ethical charge that we can.’
He dismissed the notion that Floyd may have died for any other reason than that the officer was kneeling on his neck and starving him of oxygen and said the fact that Floyd had fentanyl in his system – something his autopsy revealed – was irrelevant.
‘You take your victim as you find them. You can’t say, “the person that I victimized was not in the perfect picture of health so it’s their fault that they died at my hands.”
‘You take your victim as you find them.
Not only is that a fact that should not weigh but you never know, those kind of things that some defense attorneys are going to try to turn to… we don’t think it matters in terms of proximate cause.
‘Both the medical examiner reports we’ve seen indicate homicide – death at the hands of another – that is what we think matters most,’ he said.
He also said his office was confident in bringing charges against the other three cops because the evidence – namely cell phone footage of the incident – shows that they helped Chauvin by subduing Floyd and also did nothing when he cried out for breath.
‘If you look at the tape, you can see who is sitting where, and see the assistance that was giving, meaningful and and important assistance to what Chauvin was doing.
‘We can also see what was not done. Even despite the pleas and the cries there was no assistance rendered. We believe they were culpable, they assisted in the commission of this offense – this is why we charged them.’
Ellison said that while the prosecution was an important step in the pursuit of justice, it would not address the nation’s pain and outrage over police brutality and racial inequality.
‘This is a social change moment and a prosecution is essential to achieving that justice but it is not to achieve all the justice and address all the hurt and pain that people have experienced.
Another angle of the infamous video shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck and the three other cops right beside him in Minneapolis last Monday
‘Even beyond policing, some of these problems have to do with inadequate housing, poverty and racist attitudes that Americans share that are not even in the police department. All that work needs to be done and now is a good time to do it,’ he said.
Benjamin Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, said on Wednesday that the charges were a ‘bittersweet moment’ for the family.
In an interview with Today on Thursday, he reiterated that they want to see Chauvin prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
‘We believe he had intent based on the police body cam audio when the one officer said ‘he has no pulse, maybe we should turn him on his side?’.
‘Officer Chauvin said, “No. We’ll keep him in this position and stand on his neck for three more minutes while he was unconscious,”‘ Crump said.
A televised memorial for Floyd will take place in Minneapolis on Thursday at 2pm – 30 minutes after the three cops’ first appearance in court.
Crump said they had ‘many high profile’ guests lined up for it.
‘It’s going to be a celebration of life, but it’s also going to be a plea to America, and a plea for justice, that we don’t let his death be in vain.
‘We have a lot of high profile people coming.
‘We want everybody to use their forces to say no more – we’re tired of dying at the hands of the people supposed to protect us,’ he said.