George Floyd's funeral: Thousands pay their respects to killed protester

9 June 2020, 17:31 | Updated: 30 June 2020, 17:13

The funeral of George Floyd has started in Houston, after thousands flocked to his hometown to pay their respects.

The service for Mr Floyd is being held at The Fountain of Praise Church and will be attended by political, religious and civil rights leaders alongside his family and friends.

Anti-racism demonstrators are also gathering in London as Mr Floyd is laid to rest across the Atlantic, after Boris Johnson said his killing had awakened an "incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice" worldwide.

A symbolic and socially distanced commemoration is planned at the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square in London at 5pm, organised by Stand Up To Racism.

The casket of George Floyd lies in wait for his funeral service
The casket of George Floyd lies in wait for his funeral service. Picture: PA

Mourners wearing T-shirts with Mr Floyd's picture or the words "I Can't Breathe" - the phrase he said repeatedly while pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer - waited for hours to see Mr Floyd's body, dressed in a brown suit in an open gold-coloured coffin.

While some friends and relatives were in attendance, many other strangers travelled for hours or drove from other states to pay their respects.

Those who could not make it made their own tributes. In Los Angeles, a funeral-style procession of cars inched through the city centre as the viewing began in Houston. In Tennessee, residents of Memphis held a moment of silence.

Bracy Burnett approached Mr Floyd's coffin wearing a homemade denim face mask emblazoned with "8:46'' - the length of time prosecutors say Mr Floyd, who was black, was pinned to the ground under a white officer's knee before he died.

"All black people are not criminals. All white people are not racists. All cops are not bad. And ignorance comes in all colours. That's what I thought about when I viewed the body," Ms Burnett, 66, said.

Mr Floyd's death on May 25 has inspired international protests and drawn new attention to the treatment of African Americans in the US by police and the criminal justice system.

Hours into the viewing, a judge in Minneapolis kept bail at 1 million dollars for Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with second-degree murder in Mr Floyd's death. Chauvin, 44, said almost nothing during the 11-minute hearing while appearing on closed-circuit television from a maximum-security prison.

Two weeks after Mr Floyd's death, the impact continued to resonate both at home and abroad.

In Paris, France's top security official said police would 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 that would include a nationwide ban on choke holds in a potentially far-reaching legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

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

Mourners were required to wear masks over fears of the coronavirus and stood six feet apart as they paused briefly to view the coffin. On a stage behind the casket were two identical murals of Mr Floyd wearing a black cap that read "Houston" and angel wings drawn behind him.

Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott was among the first to view the coffin and planned to meet privately with the family. He wore a striped gold-and-crimson tie, the colours of Mr Floyd's Houston high school, where Mr Floyd was an American football player.

"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.