George Floyd to be laid to rest in Houston hometown

AFP / Johannes EISELE

George Floyd will be laid to rest Tuesday in his Houston hometown, the culmination of a long farewell to the 46-year-old African American whose death in custody ignited global protests against police brutality and racism.

Thousands of well-wishers filed past Floyd’s coffin in a public viewing a day earlier, as a court set bail at $1 million for the white officer charged with his murder last month in Minneapolis.

Many made the sign of the cross as they approached the open casket to say a last goodbye, while others took a knee or bowed their heads in silent prayer for a man who has become emblematic of America’s latest reckoning with racial injustice.

The six-hour viewing at The Fountain of Praise church — which drew more than 6,000 people, organizers said — was the final stage in a series of ceremonies paying tribute to Floyd before he is buried beside his mother.

POOL/AFP / David J. Phillip
A mourner cries as she passes by the casket of George Floyd during a public viewing at the Fountain of Praise church Monday, June 8, 2020, in Houston

Tuesday’s funeral, beginning at 11 am (1600 GMT), will be live-streamed, with civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy.

Flowers were piled high outside the entrance to the church, attended by part of his family, before a portrait of Floyd whose casket was expected around 9 am.

Some 500 guests are expected, including boxing champion Floyd Mayweather who is reportedly paying all expenses.

Shiara DeLoach will not be inside the church, but she turned up at dawn nonetheless to pay her respects.

A man raises his fist as he views the casket of George Floyd during a public visitation in Houston attended by more than 6,000 people

“This is a tough situation,” she told AFP. “Enough is enough, everybody with children and a heart can feel the pain.

“A lot of changes have to come. Everyone must be treated equal. It is very emotional and heart breaking.”

– Police reform calls –

A day earlier in Washington, Democratic lawmakers knelt in silent tribute to Floyd before unveiling a package of police reforms in response to the killing of a litany of unarmed black Americans by law enforcement.

The congressional move came a day after the Minneapolis authorities pledged to dismantle and rebuild the police department in the city where Floyd died during a May 25 arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

AFP / Brendan Smialowski
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers take a knee to observe a moment of silence on Capitol Hill for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality

Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old white officer who was filmed pressing his knee on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, made his first court appearance on Monday.

The 19-year veteran, who appeared by videolink from prison, faces up to 40 years if convicted on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

His bail was set 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.

– Tough line from Trump –

AFP / Joseph Prezioso
Protesters take a knee and raise their fists in a moment of silence for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality in Boston, Massachusetts

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.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden flew to Houston Monday for a private meeting with Floyd’s family.

In unveiling a wide-ranging police reform bill, Democrats were responding to one of the chief demands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets for the past two weeks in the most sweeping US protests for racial justice since the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Justice in Policing Act, introduced in both chambers of Congress, would 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.

While condemning Floyd’s death, Trump has adopted a tough approach to putting down the protests and he once again voiced his support for police at a roundtable on law enforcement on Monday.

Trump has accused “Radical Left Democrats” of seeking to “defund the police,” but Democratic leaders did not include any such language in their bill and Biden has also flatly rejected the suggestion.