Minneapolis, Minnesota, US – Hundreds gathered on Thursday for the first of several planned memorials for George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week.
The Minneapolis event kicked off a week of services to honour Floyd, whose death on May 25, captured on video, set off protests across the United States, and worldwide.
The memorial, attended by family, friends and prominent civil rights figures, was livestreamed, starting at 1pm (18:00 GMT). Thousands gathered in a park nearby. Reverend Al Sharpton was scheduled to give the eulogy.
On Thursday “we will lay out how we will mobilise nationally in the name of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and more”, Sharpton tweeted on Wednesday, referring to the names of Black men and women killed by police or former law enforcement.
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) June 3, 2020
Sharpton’s sentiment was shared by residents in Minneapolis, many of whom have attended daily protests, demanding justice for Floyd and an end to police violence.
“I’m not only there for the people that died of police shootings, but I’m there for the 401 years of slavery and oppression – systematic oppression that my people had to deal with, and are still dealing with,” said Sada Cooper, a Minneapolis resident.
“Like, when is it going to end?” she asked.
Carlos Flemming said attending the memorial was not only a way to honour Floyd, but an “opportunity to take back this space and take back the narrative of what happened”.
‘I can’t breathe’
That narrative is what Floyd’s family and many protesters say is so important.
“The image that most of us have of George Floyd is the horrible video that we’ve seen,” said Floyd family lawyer Chris Stewart on Wednesday, standing alongside Roxie Washington, the mother of Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Stewart was referring to the video, now seen around the world, in which Floyd repeatedly pleads for the white police officer kneeling on his neck to get off.
“I can’t breathe,” Floyd repeatedly says before going motionless, still being pinned down by the officer’s knee.
“We’ve seen the anger in the streets; we’ve seen so much violence; we’ve seen beauty, also. We’ve seen people standing up and speaking up, and we’ve seen massive changes across the country,” Stewart said. “But what we really wanted the world to see is the beauty of their child. The beauty of Gianna … The beauty of Roxie who is holding up strong throughout this. And the actual situations in life that these things affect.”
Mina Mansaray, a Minneapolis resident, said she sees Thursday’s memorial as an opportunity to step back and reflect.
“I feel like we just have to slow everything down for a little bit to appreciate the reality of life,” Mansaray told Al Jazeera. “Unfortunately, it’s the fact that Black people have to, have to struggle a little harder than everybody else, but look at what we’ve created.”
Thursday’s service comes a day after prosecutors announced new charges against the four now-fired police officers involved in Floyd’s death.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, had his previously announced third-degree murder charge upgraded to second-degree murder. He also faces a second-degree manslaughter charge.
The other three officers face aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. All four are in custody.
“This is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest,” said prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is also representing the Floyd family. “That is a source of peace for George’s family in this painful time.”
Services will also be held in North Carolina – where Floyd was born – and Houston – where he lived for a time. Floyd will be buried in Houston at a private service next week.
To Cooper attending Thursday’s memorial gives everyone a chance “to show a sense of community, to show that everybody’s on one accord”.
“Everybody’s here for the same purpose. Everybody has the same mindset,” she said. “And we’re all looking for the same outcome … It feels like one body, and that’s what God intended for us to be. One body.”