George Floyd memorial and burial takes place in Houston

George Floyd has been laid to rest after a memorial in his hometown of Houston. Protests over his death and systemic racism in the US continue, with the UN calling out the troubling dynamic between civilians and police.

George Floyd memorial

Family and friends gathered to lay George Floyd to rest in his hometown of Houston on Tuesday, with gospel and poignant tributes capping the long farewell to the 46-year-old African American whose death ignited global protests against police brutality and racism. George Floyd’s memorial allowed protestors to come and pay their respects. 

Politicians, civil rights activists and celebrities joined in sharing memories of the man they called a “gentle giant” before his golden casket was to be conveyed by horse-drawn carriage to his final resting place by his mother’s grave.

George Floyd memorial

Though it was a solemn occasion, The Fountain of Praise Church in southern Houston was filled with joyous music and words of fond remembrance for a kind and gifted man, whose savage death galvanized a worldwide movement.

“George Floyd changed the world. And we are going to make the world know that he made a difference,” Al Green, the local US congressman, told the congregation.

“We have a responsibility to each one of them to make sure that we do not walk away today after having celebrated his life and not taking the next step… to assure the future generations that this won’t happen again,” he added.

A stream of mourners passed in front of Floyd’s casket, some making the sign of the cross, some taking a knee and others bowing their heads in silent prayer.

All were required to wear masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s bringing us together as a country,” said Kevin Sherrod, 41, who was accompanied by his wife and two sons aged eight and nine.

“Being here with my boys means a lot,” Sherrod added. “It is a time in history and they will remember they were part of it.”

George Floyd killed by white police officer

Floyd died on May 25 as a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into his neck for almost nine minutes, his pleas of “I can’t breathe” becoming a rallying cry for protesters.

Prosecutors wrote that Floyd complied with orders from police officers to leave his vehicle, but did not “voluntarily” get in their squad car. “While standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying and repeating that he could not breathe,” they wrote.

Read more: George Floyd’s murder; violent protests spread across US

Floyd was soon brought to the ground. One officer held Floyd’s back, another his legs, as Chauvin placed his left on Floyd’s neck. Floyd repeated, “I can’t breathe,” “Mama,” and “please,” as the minutes went by.

The medical examiner noted Mr Floyd had underlying heart conditions and the combination of these, “potential intoxicants in his system” and being restrained by the officers “likely contributed to his death”.

The report says Mr Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds – almost three minutes of which was after Mr Floyd became non-responsive.

Nearly two minutes before he removed his knee the other officers checked Mr Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and were unable to find one. He was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in an ambulance and pronounced dead around an hour later.

Systemic racism exposed in the US; protests continue 

His death has come to embody fractured relations between communities of color and police in the US and beyond as tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets.

In a much awaited development the UN’s human rights chief has taken notice of the protests raging across the United States and said that America’s “structural racism” and “glaring inequalities” are at the heart of the massive protests that have gripped the US, adding that it is high time for “far-reaching reforms.” This statement comes amid increasing worldwide anger directed at the US Administration for its mishandling of the Floyd protests.

Read more: UN asks the US to end its structural racism amid worldwide anger

The protests over the death of George Floyd, an African American choked to death by a police officer during detention, have reached such proportions they have drawn attention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

She said that demonstrations that often grew into violent riots clearly show people have been driven “to the boiling point” and America’s deep-seated inequality problem cannot be ignored anymore.

George Floyd memorial held to pay respects 

The Fountain of Praise was the final stage in a series of ceremonies paying tribute to Floyd before he is buried.

In a day that capped more than two weeks of tension around the country, the theme inside the building was one of peace and hope as family members and friends took to the podium to share their grief, with civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton due to deliver the eulogy.

Flowers were piled high outside the entrance to the church, attended by part of his family, before a portrait of Floyd whose open casket was visited by more than 6,000 well-wishers on Monday.

Some 500 guests — all masked due the coronavirus pandemic — filled the church, including actors Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, as well as boxing champion Floyd Mayweather who is reportedly paying all expenses.

George Floyd’s memorial comes after days of peaceful protests that grew into violent riots in some parts of the US. 

Minneapolis to rebuild police department 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has visited the family, offered words of condolence to Floyd’s children in a video message urging them to “change the world for the better” in their father’s name.

“Today now is the time, the purpose, the season to listen and heal,” said Biden, who suffered his own tragedy with the deaths of a wife and two children.

“Now is time for racial justice… Because when there’s justice for George Floyd we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.”

The funeral comes after the Minneapolis authorities pledged to dismantle and rebuild the police department in the city where Floyd died during an arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old white officer who was filmed pressing his knee on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck, faces up to 40 years if convicted on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

His bail was set on Monday at $1 million with conditions, or $1.25 million without.

Three other policemen involved in Floyd’s arrest are charged with aiding and abetting his murder. All four officers have been fired.

The arrest was caught on amateur video played in all corners of the world over the past two weeks.

Republicans and Democrats at loggerheads over Floyd protests

Floyd was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Houston’s predominantly African American Third Ward where he was remembered as a towering high school athlete and good-natured friend.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets for two weeks of the most sweeping US protests for racial justice since the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The demonstrations have been marred by several nights of violence that focused attention at home and abroad on police brutality as numerous videos have emerged that allegedly show incidents of heavy-handed policing. 

The Democrats have introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress, that they hope will make it easier to prosecute officers for abuse, and rethink how they are recruited and trained.

Some US cities have already begun to embrace reforms — starting with bans on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. 

But it is unclear what support the reform bill might find in the Republican-controlled Senate — or whether President Donald Trump would sign such legislation into law.

Before George Floyd’s memorial, Trump had already taken a hard line and supported military intervention for protests. 

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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