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Emotional, Stirring Memorial Service Held For George Floyd In Minneapolis


A march on Washington in August to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech. That is what Reverend Al Sharpton called for during an emotional memorial service yesterday for George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died last week after a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while detaining him. NPR's David Schaper was there for the memorial service yesterday, and he has this report.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Amazing grace...

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Almost no one had on their Sunday best, but to many of the thousands of people standing on the street or sitting in the grass outside of the campus chapel of North Central University, it still felt like church.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) That saved...

SCHAPER: Inside, George Floyd's family remembered the 6-foot-4 man as Big George, Georgie Porgie and, to those who knew him best, Perry.


PHILONISE FLOYD: You know, my brother, we did a lot of things together.

SCHAPER: Floyd's brother Philonise rattled off memories of playing video games and football, dancing and cooking with their mom.


FLOYD: Man, so much. We made banana mayonnaise sandwiches together, you know? It was a family thing, you know?

SCHAPER: In his eulogy, Reverend Al Sharpton noted that this is not a normal funeral because Floyd's death is not a normal circumstance.


AL SHARPTON: He did not die of common health conditions. He died of a common American criminal justice malfunction.

SCHAPER: Sharpton then recalled the way Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by an officer kneeling on his neck.


SHARPTON: 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 of being is you kept your knee on our neck.


SCHAPER: Sharpton says far too many black Americans are still being held down.


SHARPTON: What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country in education, in health services and in every area of American life. It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say, get your knee off our necks.


SCHAPER: But Sharpton noted a change in the response to this black man's death as protests continue from coast to coast and around the world and in some cases young whites outnumbering the young blacks marching.


SHARPTON: Get your rest, George. You changed the world, George. We going to keep marching, George. We going to keep fighting, George. We done turned the cup (ph), George. We going forward, George. Timeout. Timeout. Timeout.

SCHAPER: The service ended with Sharpton asking everyone to stand silently for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time the officer knelt on Floyd's neck.


SCHAPER: Afterwards, 31-year-old Ramon Johnson (ph) noted the racial diversity in the crowd around him.

RAMON JOHNSON: It'd been overdue, you know? We need to come together, unite, everybody as one.

SCHAPER: His friend, 33-year-old Sequoia Wesley (ph), says he's been waiting for his city to come together like this.

SEQUOIA WESLEY: George Floyd, yep, we can't let him die in vain, you know what I'm saying? We got to make a change starting today. So everybody eyes and ears is watching right now, and it's up to us to take action.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) George Floyd, George Floyd.

SCHAPER: As the casket was placed into a hearse, those on hand chanted George Floyd's name, leaving the question of what's next? Many here say they see this moment as a turning point in the struggle for racial justice but add there's still a lot of work to do to achieve it. David Schaper, NPR News, Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.