MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mural of George Floyd projected above his golden coffin, where mourners knelt and cried, paused and prayed at his memorial service Thursday had a simple message: “I can breathe now.”
Celebrities, civil rights activists, politicians and family members of Floyd sang “Amazing Grace,” prayed and joined together in a rousing memorial that was both a celebration of his life and a mourning of a man whose death at the hands of police has sparked protests nationwide and calls for an end to racial injustice.
Mourners wore masks, some with the words “I can’t breathe” on them, some of the last words Floyd said on the streets of Minneapolis just 3 miles (5 kilometers) from where the service was held at the Frank J. Lindquist sanctuary at North Central University. Some in attendance bumped elbows, rather than hug or shake hands, at the memorial taking place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was not the coronavirus that killed Floyd, the family’s attorney Ben Crump said, but the “pandemic of racism and discrimination.”
Watch Crump’s remarks in the player above.
Floyd’s brother and other family members told personal stories about dancing, playing football, cooking and enjoying life together. They said he was known by the endearing nickname “Big George.”
“George, he was like a general,” brother Philonise Floyd said. “Every day he would walk outside there would be a line of people wanting to greet him. … He was powerful, man. He had a way with words. … Everybody loved George.”
It was as the first service planned over the next six days across three communities where Floyd was born, grew up and died.