George Floyd’s death inspired a national movement and forced his family to demand justice. Now, it’s time for them to celebrate his life.
Since the 46-year-old died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Floyd’s relatives have been part of massive protests in Texas. His children heard crowds far way from home chant their father’s name. His brother led a prayer vigil at the site of Floyd’s death.
The first in a series of memorial services honoring Floyd will take place Thursday afternoon.
His family, friends and a number of guests will gather at the North Central University in Minneapolis. Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network, will deliver a eulogy to honor Floyd’s life.
“We must turn this moment into a movement,” Sharpton told reporters on Wednesday, describing Floyd as a “linchpin” for police accountability.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday’s memorial would be a chance for everyone to heal.
“It’s critically important for them to see and for Minnesotans to display to them that there’s another side to us and to this state that they didn’t see last Monday night,” Walz said on Wednesday.
A ‘gentle giant’ and a family man
Anyone who met Floyd couldn’t miss seeing him. He was 6 feet 4 inches tall, a “gentle giant.”
“Knowing my brother is to love my brother,” Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, told CNN’s Don Lemon.
“He’s a gentle giant, he don’t hurt anybody.”
Floyd was born in North Carolina but called Houston, Texas, home because he moved there at a young age with his family.
He grew up in the city’s Third Ward — a historically black neighborhood — and it was there where he played basketball, went to church and met many friends, including the mother of his 6-year-old daughter and former NBA player Stephen Jackson.
“He didn’t abuse our friendship, he cherished it,” Jackson told CNN. “Floyd was one person I knew that was supporting me genuinely.”
As a teenager, Floyd was known as a star athlete. He was a tight end on the football team and played basketball at Jack Yates High School.
“Mr. Floyd was a ’93 Yates graduate, an amazing athlete, and a dear friend to many,” Tiffany Guillory, the school’s principal tweeted last week.
He left home for a few years to play basketball at South Florida State College in Avon Park, Florida, the team’s head basketball coach George Walker told CNN.
“He didn’t give me too much trouble as a basketball coach,” Walker said. “He was a pretty good athlete, averaged 12 to 14 points a game.”
Floyd moved to Minneapolis several years ago looking for a better life. He worked as a truck driver and more recently as a bouncer at a club.
He wanted to be a better father, Jackson said, and would often talk about taking care of his daughters.
He’ll be honored in North Carolina and Houston
People in two other cities will be able to pay their respects in the next five days.
A public viewing and a private memorial service will be held in Raeford, North Carolina, on Saturday — the state where he was born.
Floyd’s sister lives in Hoke County, according to CNN affiliate WRAL.
The public viewing will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters, followed by a private service for family at 3 p.m., said Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin.
Next Monday, Floyd’s body will return to Houston for a public memorial and private service on Tuesday.
The memorial will take place from noon to 6 p.m. at The Fountain of Praise Church at 13950 Hillcroft Ave. in Houston, the Fort Bend Memorial Planning Center said.
The private service will be held at an undisclosed location.
All 4 ex-police officers charged
The four fired Minneapolis police officers who had been arresting Floyd are now in jail.
New charges were filed Wednesday against the officers. Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter last week and authorities added a charge of second-degree murder.
The other former officers — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
If convicted, all officers could spend up to 40 years in prison.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the new charges were not influenced by the public outcry in the case nor the fact that a public memorial is scheduled for Floyd on Thursday.
After learning the officers had been charged, Floyd’s son Quincy Mason told CNN’s Sara Sidner that his family wants justice.
“I’m here with my family. We demand justice. My father shouldn’t have been killed like this,” he said.