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PICS: Thousands pay tribute to George Floyd as pressure mounts for US police reform

The casket of George Floyd is removed after a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J Phillip/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

The casket of George Floyd is removed after a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J Phillip/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 9, 2020


Houston - Thousands of mourners braved

sweltering Texas heat on Monday to view the casket of George

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Floyd, whose death after a police officer knelt on his neck

ignited worldwide protests against the mistreatment of African

Americans and other minorities by US law enforcement.

American flags fluttered along the route to the Fountain of

Praise church in Houston, where Floyd grew up, as throngs of

mourners wearing face coverings to prevent spread of the

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coronavirus formed a procession to pay final respects.

People wait in line to pay their respect to George Floyd during a public memorial service at Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Solemnly filing through the church in two parallel lines,

some mourners bowed their heads, others made the sign of the

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cross or raised a fist, as they paused in front of Floyd's open

casket. More than 6 300 people took part in the visitation,

which ran for more than six hours, church officials said.

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Fire officials said several people, apparently overcome by

heat exhaustion while waiting in line, were taken to hospitals.

"I'm glad he got the send-off he deserved," Marcus Williams,

a 46-year-old black resident of Houston, said outside the

church. "I want the police killings to stop. I want them to

reform the process to achieve justice, and stop the killing."

The public viewing came two weeks to the day after Floyd's

death was captured by an onlooker's video. As a white police

officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, an unarmed

and handcuffed Floyd, 46, lay face down on a Minneapolis street,

gasping for air and groaning for help, before falling silent.

The case was reminiscent of the 2014 killing of another

African American, Eric Garner, who died after being placed by

police in a chokehold while under arrest in New York City.

The dying words of both men, "I can't breathe," have become

a rallying cry in a global outpouring of rage, drawing crowds by

the thousands to the streets despite health hazards from the

coronavirus pandemic.

Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis police custody has sparked nationwide protests against racial inequality, is held by Reverend Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump as he gets emotional during a speech. Picture: Adrees Latif/Reuters

The demonstrations stretched into a third week on Monday.

"Even though it is a risk to come out here, I think it has

been a very positive experience. You hear the stories, you feel

the energy," Benedict Chiu, 24, told Reuters at an outdoor

memorial service in Los Angeles.

"I'm here to protest the mistreatment of our black bodies.

It's not going to stop unless we keep protesting," said Erica

Corley, 34, one of hundreds attending a gathering in the

Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.

As the public viewing unfolded in Houston, Derek Chauvin,

44, the police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck and is charged

with second-degree murder, made his first court appearance in

Minneapolis by video link. A judge ordered his bail raised from

$1 million to $1.25 million.

Mourners pass by the casket of George Floyd during a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J. Phillip/Pool/AP

Chauvin's co-defendants, three fellow officers accused of

aiding and abetting Floyd's murder, were previously ordered held

on $750,000 to $1 million bond each.

All four were dismissed from the police department the day

after Floyd's death.

Unleashed amid pent-up anxiety and despair inflicted by a

pandemic that has hit minority communities especially hard, the

demonstrations have reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter

movement and thrust demands for racial justice and police

reforms to the top of America's political agenda ahead of the

November 3 presidential election.

Protests in a number of US cities were initially

punctuated by episodes of arson, looting and clashes with

police, deepening a political crisis for President Donald Trump

as he repeatedly threatened to order the military into the

streets to help restore order.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott passes by the casket of George Floyd during a public visitation for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. Picture: David J. Phillip/AP

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is

challenging the Republican Trump in the election, met with

Floyd's relatives for more than an hour in Houston on Monday,

according to the family's lawyer, Benjamin Crump.

"He listened, heard their pain and shared in their woe,"

Crump said. "That compassion meant the world to this grieving

family." Floyd was due to be buried on Tuesday.

In Washington, Democrats in Congress unveiled legislation to

make lynching a federal hate crime and to allow victims of

police misconduct and their families to sue law enforcement for

damages in civil court, ending a legal doctrine known as

qualified immunity.

The bill also would ban chokeholds and require the use of

body cameras by federal law enforcement officers, place new

restrictions on the use of lethal force and facilitate

independent probes of police departments that show patterns of


The legislation does not call for police departments to be

de-funded or abolished, as some activists have demanded. But

lawmakers called for spending priorities to change.

Trump "is appalled by the defund-the-police movement," White

House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told a media briefing. She

said Trump was weighing various proposals in response to Floyd's


Biden opposes the movement to defund police departments but

supports the "urgent need" for reform, a spokesman for his

presidential campaign said.

A high-spirited atmosphere that prevailed over a series of

mass demonstrations during the weekend was marred late on Sunday

when a man drove a car into a rally in Seattle and then shot and

wounded a demonstrator who confronted him. The suspect, Nikolas

Fernandez, was charged on Monday with assault.

Separately, a man described by prosecutors as an admitted

member of the Ku Klux Klan and "propagandist for Confederate

ideology," was arrested on suspicion of driving his pickup truck

into a rally near Richmond, Virginia, late on Sunday. The

suspect, Harry H. Rogers, 36, was charged with assault and

battery, malicious wounding and felony vandalism.


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