George Floyd laid to rest in Houston as world watches on

9 June 2020, 19:36

George Floyd's funeral has taken place in Houston
George Floyd's funeral has taken place in Houston. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Hundreds of family and friends have gathered in Houston, Texas, for the funeral of George Floyd, whose death in US police custody sparked global outcry.

The 46-year-old’s body arrived at The Fountain of Praise Church earlier this evening in a gold-coloured casket, blocks away from where he grew up.

The private funeral, limited to 500 people to ensure social distancing, featured a series of prominent guests and religious leaders.

In a speech delivered by video link, former vice president and current Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden told the service: "When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.”

Addressing Mr Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, he added: “And then—as you said, Gianna—your daddy will have changed the world."

Rodney Floyd puts his arm around his brother Philonise Floyd as they listen to the song "Oh, How Precious" sung during the funeral for their brother, George
Rodney Floyd puts his arm around his brother Philonise Floyd as they listen to the song "Oh, How Precious" sung during the funeral for their brother, George. Picture: PA
Family grieve together at George Floyd's casket
Family grieve together at George Floyd's casket. Picture: PA
Thousands have been in Houston to pay their respects
Thousands have been in Houston to pay their respects. Picture: PA

Gianna was carried into the service in a blue lace dress. His brothers and other family members were emotional as multiple speakers paid their respects.

Mr Floyd died after a white officer knelt on his neck for more eight minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis on May 25 while he gasped for air.

Videos emerged showing the killing, prompting a reckoning with racism that has seen thousands take to streets for a series of anti-racism protests in US cities and across the UK over the past fortnight in unrest not seen for decades.

Family members of other black people killed by US police, including Breonna Taylor, unarmed teenager Michael Brown and Eric Garner are also in attendance at the funeral.

Outside under a blazing Texas sun, hundreds of mourners gathered, some wearing T-shirts with Mr Floyd’s picture or the words “I Can’t Breathe” – his final plea.

Joe Biden's speech seen from the church
Joe Biden's speech seen from the church. Picture: PA

The funeral follows six days of memorials for Mr Floyd which were held in Minneapolis, where he lived in recent years, and Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born.

On Monday, his body was on display in a church for six hours while mourners stood silent.

Across the Atlantic in London, a symbolic commemoration was held at the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square began at 5pm, organised by Stand Up To Racism.

Mia K. Wright, the co-pastor of The Fountain of Praise church, said the service will be a celebration of Mr Floyd’s life cut so abruptly short.

"We celebrate a life that had its ups and downs as many lives do but also a life that was connected to God and one that all people around the world have now connected to because of the tragedy and the trauma by which he passed," she told CNN.

"And so we want to have a home-going celebration, we want to remember his name.”

Mr Floyd died in Minneapolis, but will be laid to rest alongside his mother in Houston
Mr Floyd died in Minneapolis, but will be laid to rest alongside his mother in Houston. Picture: PA
He will be buried in a private service later today
He will be buried in a private service later today. Picture: PA

She added: "It is so important that we move forward from here from a place of healing and wholeness because if we expect change to happen in our community, we can't come from anger and hurt and loss.”

After the service, Mr Floyd’s coffin will be escorted by the Houston Police Department to Perland’s Houston Memorial Gardens.

City officials said the final mile of the service will see his body carried by a horse-drawn carriage.

Mr Floyd will be laid to rest in a private burial next to his mother, whom he cried out for as he was restrained.

His brother, Philonise Floyd, said: “If he was told he would have to sacrifice his life to bring the world together, and knowing him, I know he would've [done] it.”

He added that he has yet to come to terms with his loss.

"It seems unreal because, you know, every day is like waiting on that phone call. I'm still calling his phone number."

At the service in Houston, Texas, Goerge Floyd's niece Brook Williams, referencing her uncle's final words, said: "I can breathe and as long as I can breathe justice will be served.

"He always moved people with his words. The officer showed no remorse for watching my uncle's soul leave his body.

"He begged and pleaded for you to just get up.

"Why must this system be corrupt and broken? Laws were put in place for the African-American system to fail. These laws need to be changed. No more hate crimes, please.

"Someone said make America great again. When has America ever been great?"

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