MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hollywood celebrities, musicians and politicians gathered in front of the golden casket of George Floyd at a fiery memorial Thursday for the man whose death at the hands of police sparked global protests, with a civil rights leader declaring it is time for black people to demand, “Get your knee off our necks!”
The service — the first in a series of memorials set for three cities over six days — unfolded at a sanctuary at North Central University as a judge a few blocks away set bail at $750,000 each for the three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death.
“All these people came to see my brother,” Philones Floyd told the crowd at the memorial in awe as he recounted their childhoods playing catch and eating banana-mayonnaise sandwiches. “That’s amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts because he touched our hearts.”
Watch the moment in the player above.
Floyd, a 46-year-old out-of-work bouncer, died May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he lay handcuffed on the pavement, gasping that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin has been charged with murder, and he and the others could get up to 40 years in prison.
The casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and a vibrant image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was seized by police on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. The message on the mural: “I can breathe now.”
The sanctuary normally seats 1,000, but because of the coronavirus outbreak, the capacity was reduced to about 500, and mourners wore masks.
After the Minneapolis event, his body will go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born, for a public viewing and private family service on Saturday.
Sedensky reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press journalists across the U.S. and the world contributed to this report.