Sat, 11 Jul 2020

George Floyd Remembered as Good Father and Family Man

Voice of America
05 Jun 2020, 10:05 GMT+10

George Floyd was remembered Thursday as a devoted father and family man who did not deserve to die while in Minneapolis police custody.

Civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton led the first of six scheduled memorial services for the 46-year-old African American man whose death last week sparked violent protests across the country and again put a spotlight on accusations of police brutality against black men.

Thursday's service in Minneapolis included the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, several members of Congress, and celebrities, including Ludacris, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, and T.I.

At one point, the audience at the sanctuary at North Central University stood in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds - the length of time white police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck May 25, after which Floyd died.

"George Floyd's story has been the story of black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck," Sharpton said in his eulogy. "It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say, 'Get your knee off our necks!'"

He said it is time for those in the U.S. justice system to stop "making excuses and empty promises."

Philonise Lloyd, one of George Lloyd's brothers, recounted their childhood games and said he was amazed at the number of people who came to memorialize George.

Thursday's memorial services in Minneapolis and Brooklyn, New York, which was attended by another brother, Terrence Floyd, were the first of six private and public services for Floyd over the next five days, including in his birthplace of Raeford, North Carolina, and in Houston, where he grew up.

Also Thursday, members of the Senate Democratic Caucus held their own 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence for Floyd in the Capitol's Emancipation Hall.

The Associated Press reported that more than 10,000 people have been arrested since last week on accusations of looting and other acts of violence in the coast-to-coast protests set off by Floyd's death.

Thousands of demonstrators have also turned out in Paris, London, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.

The mayors of several big U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, have lifted nightly curfews.

Curfews remain in effect, and police and National Guard remain on alert, in several other places where violence has eased but remains a threat.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday second-degree murder charges against Chauvin. The former officer was originally charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after his arrest last week.

Ellison also announced charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder against the other three officers at the scene - J.A. Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. All four officers are in custody and have been fired from the police department.

"I strongly believe that these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community and our state," Ellison said. "We're working together on this case with only one goal - justice for George Floyd."

A Floyd family attorney said the additional charges are "a bittersweet moment."

A Hennepin County, Minnesota, judge on Thursday set bail at $750,000 each for Keung, Lane and Thao.

An attorney for Lane appealed for a lower bail, telling the court his client expressed some concern when Floyd was on the ground and performed CPR on the unconscious Floyd in the ambulance.

Attorney Earl Gray, representing Lane, told the court that Chauvin was the senior officer on the scene, and when Floyd died, Lane was on only his fourth day on the job.

"What was my client supposed to do but follow what his training officer said? Is that aiding and abetting a crime?" Gray asked.

Officers arrested Floyd after he was suspected of trying to spend a counterfeit $20 bill in a Minneapolis food store.

The police had said Floyd was resisting arrest. In cellphone video seen around the world, Floyd can be heard saying, "I can't breathe," while bystanders yelled at the officers to ease up.

A medical examiner's autopsy said Floyd's death was the result of a homicide under police restraint but said he had "significant" health conditions, including heart disease and recent drug use.

A separate autopsy commissioned by Floyd's family also concluded that he was the victim of a homicide but denied any other major health issues.

Two members of Congress - Libertarian Justin Amash and Democrat Ayanna Pressley - are co-sponsoring a bill limiting what is known as "qualified immunity," so victims of civil rights abuses will have an easier time suing officers in court.

"Qualified immunity shields police from accountability, impedes true justice and undermines the constitutional rights of every person in this country," Pressley said.

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