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Hollywood celebrities, musicians and politicians gathered in front of the golden casket of George Floyd at a memorial Thursday for the man whose death sparked global protests.
The service—the first in a series of memorials set for three cities over six days—unfolded at a sanctuary at North Central University as a judge a few blocks away set bail at $750,000 each for the three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death.
Floyd, a 46-year-old out-of-work bouncer, died May 25 after police officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he lay handcuffed on the pavement. Mr. Chauvin has been charged with murder, and he and the others could get up to 40 years in prison.
From coast to coast, and from Paris and London to Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, the chilling cellphone video of Floyd’s slow death has set off turbulent and sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality, racism and inequality.
Civil Rights activist Al Sharpton summed up the feelings of many in a pointed eulogy.
“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,” he said. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’”
Sharpton vowed this will become a movement to “change the whole system of justice.”
The service drew both politicians and celebrities such as Senator Amy Klobuchar, member of Congress Ilhan Omar, actor Kevin Hart, and rapper Ludacris.
“All these people came to see my brother,” Philones Floyd told the crowd at the memorial in awe as he recounted their childhoods playing catch and eating banana-mayonnaise sandwiches. “That’s amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts because he touched our hearts.”
Those gathered stood in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Floyd was alleged to be on the ground under the control of police.
The casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and a vibrant image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was seized by police on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. The message on the mural: “I can breathe now.”
The sanctuary normally seats 1,000, but because of the coronavirus outbreak, the capacity was reduced to about 500, and many mourners wore masks.
After the Minneapolis event, his body will go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born, for a public viewing and private family service on Saturday.
Next, a public viewing will be held Monday in Houston, where he was raised and lived most of his life. Then a 500-person service will take place Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church.
In the U.S., where protests had been marked by bouts of lawlessness since last week, relative quiet continued for a second straight night Wednesday following a decision by prosecutors to charge the three other officers at the scene and file a new, more serious count of murder against Chauvin.
Meantime, in Georgia, a white father and son charged in another killing of a black man that has raised racial tensions in the U.S. made a court appearance Thursday via video. A state investigator testified that Travis McMichael was heard uttering a racist slur as he stood over the body of Ahmaud Arbery after killing him with three blasts from a pump-action shotgun.
The new charges in Minneapolis punctuated an unprecedented week in recent American history, in which largely peaceful protests took place in communities of all sizes but were rocked by bursts of violence, including deadly attacks on officers, theft, vandalism and arson. In Minneapolis alone, more than 220 buildings were damaged or burned, with damage topping $55 million, city officials said.
Nationwide, more than 10,000 people have been arrested, an Associated Press tally found. More than a dozen deaths have been reported, though the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.
Demonstrations have been held around the globe, with protesters focusing on abuses in their own countries.
The memorials—while still politically charged—offer moments of introspection in what has been a tumultuous week for the United States. Such moments offer an opportunity to ask why. Why is this nation still saddled with racial tensions despite decades of trying to eradicate them?
Why, for that matter, can we not seem to tackle our very worst problems?
Real Truth Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack wrote about just this in Why Man Cannot Solve His Problems: “The world is filled with problems—disease, pollution, poverty, ignorance, religious confusion, war, terrorism, crime, violence, hunger, immorality, slavery, oppression, political upheaval and much more.
“Why? With the passing of time come more problems, not less. Why? Also, existing problems grow collectively worse instead of better. Why? Why, at every turn, has man bungled and botched all efforts to solve his truly great problems?
“Individually, people have never seemed more incapable of addressing and overcoming their personal problems. As with the world in general, the passing of time finds individuals and families drowning under an ever-worsening sea of decadence and seemingly insurmountable difficulties. More and more seem completely incapable of managing their lives.”
Read the rest of Why Man Cannot Solve His Problems to learn the answer.
This article contains information from The Associated Press.