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‘He’s gonna change the world’: George Floyd remembered in Houston

George Floyd has been buried after a Houston funeral, amid vows that his death at the hands of a white police officer will not be in vain. On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans said they are drafting legislation to address racial bias in law enforcement, a day after Democrats released their own proposal for reform. John Yang reports, and Judy Woodruff talks to Matt Harab of Houston Public Media.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Houston funeral of George Floyd has dominated the news of this day, with vows that his death will not be in vain.

    Speakers at the service ranged from family to the famous, as we hear in our opening report from John Yang.

  • John Yang:

    George Floyd was laid to rest today, more than two weeks after his death while being arrested by a white Minneapolis police officer galvanized an international movement.

    At his Houston funeral, mourners celebrated Floyd's life, and reflected on how his final words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry in the fight against systemic racism.

  • Philonise Floyd:

    When he yelled, "Please, please, I can't breathe," I want justice for my brother, my big brother. That's Big Floyd. Everybody knows who Big Floyd is now. Everybody is going to remember him around the world. He's going to change the world.

  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas:

    His assignment turned into a purpose, and that purpose was around the world that there are people rising up that will never sit down until you get justice.

  • Brooke Williams:

    My most favorite memory with my uncle was when he played — we used to play we needed to scratch his head after long days at work.

    We arrived at home. We even created a song about it called "Scratch my head, scratch my head, yes."

    (LAUGHTER)

    But after that, I knew he was a comedian. He always told me: "Baby girl, you're going to go so far with that beautiful smile and brains of yours."

  • John Yang:

    While relatives remembered George Floyd the man, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who met Monday with Floyd's family, said his legacy could be sweeping social change.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    I think what's happened here is one of those great inflection points in American history, for real, in terms of civil liberties, civil rights, and just treating people with dignity.

  • John Yang:

    In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chamber's only African-American Republican, is drafting a bill addressing racial discrimination in policing.

    The announcement comes a day after House and Senate Democrats introduced a sweeping measure of their own.

    Hours before Floyd's funeral, President Trump used a tweet to promote the conspiracy theory, without offering evidence, that a 75-year-old protester shoved to the ground by Buffalo police could be an Antifa provocateur taking part in a setup.

    The man, a longtime peace activist named Martin Gugino, remains hospitalized. The two officers involved have been suspended without pay and charged with felony assault.

    In a suggestion of growing unease with the president, some Republican senators distanced themselves from the tweet.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah:

    Yes, I saw the tweet. It was a shocking thing to say, and I won't dignify it with any further comment.

  • John Yang:

    Outside the White House, the Park Service says temporary fencing around Lafayette Park will be removed by Wednesday, but the protests in Washington, D.C., and across the country show so signs of relenting.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Inside the church in Houston, the Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for George Floyd. He honored Floyd's life and the movement sparked by his death.

  • Rev. Al Sharpton:

    You said you wanted to touch the world. Well, God had already made you for that. But you didn't touch it in a basketball court or a football court.

    God had something else for you to do, because, all over the world, George, they are marching with your name. You touched the world in South Africa. You touched the world in England. You touched every one of the 50 states. Even in a pandemic, people are walking out in the streets, not even following social distancing, because you have touched the world.

    And as we lay you to rest today, the movement won't rest until we get justice, until we have one standard of justice.

    Your family is going to miss you, George, but your nation is going to always remember your name.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's hear more about these moments at the funeral and the community's response.

    Matt Harab is with Houston Public Media. He was listening to the service at the church today.

    Matt Harab, thank you very much for talking with us.

    We know it wasn't just the Reverend Sharpton. There were other speakers today. What was the larger message that they were delivering?

  • Matt Harab:

    Yes, I think the larger message was one of action.

    You walk in the streets of Houston, and you hear these protesters talking about how they want reform and they want justice. And it's one thing the hear words. It's another thing to see action. You heard in the speech today from Reverend Sharpton, along with his speeches in Minnesota, he mentioned slavery, he mentioned voting rights, he mentioned different time periods in American history where change was required, in their opinion.

    And this is one of them. And he continues to talk about police reform. And I think that is the larger message here, is the fact that these aren't — they shouldn't just be words. They should be actions as well. And I think that's what people want to see.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Matt, we know you talked to people as they entered the church. Tell us about who was there. Tell us about whether they represent the wider Houston community. And what were they saying to you?

  • Matt Harab:

    It wasn't just the Houston community. Sure, you had Houstonians come out and show their support, but I talked to a gentleman who drove here all the way from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a professor.

    And he wanted to be here because it's not only in support of George Floyd and the family, but he talked about how this is a historic event. And he wanted to be here simply because it is a historic event.

    I talked to a young woman who was talking about her brother, and how she had been arrested brutally, and this is important for her to be specifically to support him, in addition to George Floyd.

    So, you had a lot of people outside of the church as the service was going on, as the speeches were going on, all of them with different signs, "Black Lives Matter," "I can't breathe," and it wasn't just Houstonians. It was people across the country who traveled here, amidst a global pandemic, to be here today in support of George Floyd and his family.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it is — in fact, it's not just a national movement. You could even argue it's international at this point.

    But, Matt, what are the leaders, local leaders there in Houston saying about all this? How are they relating to it?

  • Matt Harab:

    Well, one of the things that Mayor Sylvester Turner talked about in his speech today was how he's going to sign an executive order banning choke holds by the Houston police department.

    Now, this is a police department that you have to remember, leading into George Floyd's death, we had six officer-involved shootings with civilians in the five weeks leading into George Floyd's death. So, there was a lot of momentum locally when it comes to police brutality. And then this kind of was just like the cherry on top.

    But I think that this — him announcing today, the mayor, that action is going to be taken, it's not just words, banning choke holds is one of the things that has been talked about when it comes to stopping police brutality.

    Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo was on the front lines in the Third Ward with protesters a couple weeks ago as they marched from the Third Ward, the streets where George Floyd grew up, all the way to City Hall.

    So, local leaders are taking it seriously. And we're just going to have to see what happens when it comes to reaction from the local community for things like this choke hold ban, which the mayor announced today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Matt Harab with Houston Public Media reporting on the funeral of George Floyd today.

    Matt, thank you very much.

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