Family calls for justice at Floyd funeral

Jennifer Hiller and Gary McWilliams
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USA GEORGE FLOYD FUNERAL

The Reverend Al Sharpton says George Floyd has become the "cornerstone of a movement"

George Floyd, a black man whose death under the knee of a white police officer roused worldwide protests against racial injustice, has been memorialised at his funeral as "an ordinary brother" transformed by fate into the "cornerstone of a movement".

During a four-hour service on Tuesday broadcast live on every major US television network from a church in Floyd's boyhood home of Houston, family members, clergy and politicians exhorted Americans to turn grief and outrage at his death into a moment of reckoning for the nation.

The funeral followed two weeks of protests ignited by graphic video of Floyd, 46, handcuffed and lying face down on a Minneapolis street while an officer kneels into the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. The video shows Floyd gasping for air as he cries out, "Mama," and groans, "Please, I can't breathe," before falling silent and still.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, has been charged with second-degree murder and three other officers with aiding and abetting Floyd's May 25 death. All were dismissed from the department a day after the incident.

Floyd's dying words have become a rallying cry for protesters worldwide who, undaunted by the coronavirus pandemic, have demanded justice for Floyd and an end to mistreatment of minorities by US law enforcement.

"I can breathe. And as long as I'm breathing, justice will be served," Floyd's niece Brooklyn Williams declared in a eulogy that drew applause at the Fountain of Praise Church. "This is not just a murder but a hate crime."

Williams was one of several relatives and friends who addressed the service, remembering "Big Floyd" as a loving, larger-than-life personality.

His younger brother, Terrence Floyd, spoke about waking at night traumatised by the memory of his sibling calling out for their mother as he lay dying.

His older brother, Philonise, sobbing in grief, told mourners, "George was my personal superman."

Civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton called Floyd "an ordinary brother" who grew up in a housing project but left behind a legacy of greatness despite rejections in jobs and sports that prevented him achieving all he once aspired to become.

"God took the rejected stone and made him the cornerstone of a movement that is going to change the whole wide world," Sharpton said, invoking a parable from the New Testament.

Sharpton said the Floyd family would lead a march on Washington on August 28 to mark the 57th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, who was assassinated in 1968.

About 2500 people attended the funeral after more than 6000 people filed past Floyd's open casket on Monday.

Two columns of Houston police officers saluted the golden casket as it was wheeled into the church. A horse-drawn carriage later bore the coffin on its last mile to the cemetery in Pearland, where Floyd was buried in a private ceremony.

Former vice-president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, addressed the funeral service via a video recording, lamenting that "too many black Americans wake up knowing that they could lose their life in the course of just living their life".

"We cannot leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away from racism," he said.

Fallout from Floyd's death, and reaction to arson and looting that accompanied some of the otherwise mostly peaceful protests, plunged President Donald Trump into one of the biggest crises of his tenure.

Hundreds of protesters packed Seattle's city hall late on Tuesday, demanding the mayor's resignation and defunding of the police force.

Days after Seattle's mayor and police chief promised a month-long moratorium on tear gas, the department used it again on protesters overnight on Sunday, bringing severe criticism.

A Republican, Trump repeatedly threatened to order the military onto the streets to quell protests, focusing on restoring order while saying little about the US racial wounds at the root of the upheavals.