MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hollywood celebrities, musicians and the politically powerful filed into a sanctuary in front of the golden casket of George Floyd for a memorial service Thursday as mourners began a three-city farewell to the man who was anonymous in life but sparked global protests for justice in death.
The service unfolded 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 his death.
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.
From coast to coast, and from Paris and London to Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, his death has set off turbulent and sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality, racism and inequality.
“He was a human being. He had family, he had dreams, he had hopes. The real duty of one with this type of assignment is to underscore the value of the human life that was taken, which gives the reason the movement was occurring,” the civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton said ahead of the gathering.
The service drew the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and members of Congress, including Reps. Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ayana Pressley. Among the celebrities in attendance were T.I., Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Marsai Martin.
Inside the sanctuary, the casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and an image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was pinned to the pavement by police. 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.