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Family Of George Floyd, Whose Death Sparked Protests, Holds Funeral Service

The Rev. Remus Wright speaks during Tuesday's funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston.
The Rev. Remus Wright speaks during Tuesday's funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston.

Updated 2:15 p.m. ET

George Floyd, whose killing by police inspired worldwide protests calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality, will be laid to rest Tuesday in his hometown of Houston.

The black man died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes on May 25. A video captured by a bystander showed Floyd pleading for air and calling out for his mother.

Floyd, 46, will be buried next to his mother.

The funeral service is private, though live coverage can be heard here or a video stream is available below.

The service got under way at The Fountain of Praise church about 45 minutes after the scheduled start time in part because of so many in attendance.

"So much for social distancing today," the Rev. Remus Wright, the church's senior pastor, said to the crowd. "Obviously it's a lot more people than we thought."

Mia Wright, the co-pastor, said, "This is a moment by which God has gathered people all around the world to connect us around the life of the brother George Perry Floyd."

They both promised a "homegoing" ceremony that would be a "foot-stomping, toe-tapping, shouting, hallelujah, praising God" event.

Thunderous renditions of "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" rang through the sanctuary.

Gospel singer Dray Tate sang Sam Cooke's 1964 hit "A Change Is Gonna Come" as paintings with Floyd's image were prominently displayed in the pulpit.

The majority of people had facial masks on to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The pastor said those without masks were encouraged to get one or run the risk of not being allowed to stay for the service.

Joe Biden's video tribute

Joe Biden, the former U.S. vice president and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, said in a pre-taped message played during the service that Floyd's death is a reminder of the country's "racism that stings at our very soul."

"Now is the time for racial justice," Biden said. "That's the answer we must give to our children when they ask 'why?' Because when there is justice for George Floyd we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America."

As Houston Public Media reported Monday, Biden did not attend the funeral in person "out of concern his Secret Service detail would create a disruption." He did meet with the Floyd family privately Monday.

Other political figures, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, gave remarks from the pulpit.

Days of memorials

The funeral follows days of public memorials that drew thousands of mourners, including one Monday in Houston, one near his birthplace in North Carolina over the weekend and one last week in Minneapolis.

On Monday, hundreds of mourners braved sweltering temperatures in Houston to pay their respects to Floyd, who lay in an open gold-colored casket. Many wore T-shirts that said "Black Lives Matter" and "I can't breathe."

Following that public memorial, civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton vowed a continuation of marches that have been held across the United States and around the world, includingGermany and England.

Sharpton also said the Floyd family joins a list of other black families who have lost loved ones killed by police, including Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., both in 2014, and Botham Jean in Dallas in 2018.

He also paid tribute to Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in Glynn County, Ga., in February. One of the three white men accused of killing him is a retired law enforcement officer.

The fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her home in March by police executing a no-knock search warrant, has also sparked recent protests in Louisville, Ky.

"Know that none of these family members asked to be an activist or a leader," Sharpton said.

"They've been thrust into a role they did not ask for. So we are standing with them as they have now become the forefront of a new wave that I think will change policing in America forever."

$1 million bail set for Derek Chauvin

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer seen in the video with his knee on Floyd's neck, appeared in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis via video link on Monday.

As NPR reported, a judge set his bail at $1 million with conditions. That means he is eligible for supervised released. He could also be released without conditions at a higher bail amount of $1.25 million.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder in Floyd's death.

Three other Minneapolis police officers, who, like Chauvin, were terminated and arrested after Floyd's death, are facing charges of aiding and abetting murder.

Also on Monday, House Democrats unveiled new legislation that, if passed, would bring widespread reforms to policing in the United States.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has more than 200 sponsors. Among the measures the bill calls for include prohibiting the use of chokeholds, banning no-knock warrants in narcotics-related cases and establishing a national registry to track misconduct by law enforcement.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.