Minnesota Holds A Memorial Service To Commemorate George Floyd

Jun 4, 2020
Originally published on June 4, 2020 5:24 pm
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

A memorial service was held for George Floyd today in Minneapolis. Hundreds of mourners, including family, politicians and celebrities, filed into a chapel at a local university. They honored the life of the black man whose death in police custody on Memorial Day has led to more than a week of protests across the country. NPR's Adrian Florido was at the ceremony. Hello, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: And, Adrian, I understand you're there at the chapel. Describe what you're seeing for us.

FLORIDO: Right. The memorial for George Floyd is underway as we speak. George Floyd's casket - a gold casket - is at the front of the chapel. And he's being eulogized from a white lectern that was designed after the one that Dr. Martin Luther King used to deliver his I Have A Dream speech. George Floyd's family is here, members of Congress, Minnesota officials and prominent civil rights leaders. We just heard from the Reverend Al Sharpton. Let's hear a little bit of his eulogy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AL SHARPTON: Get your rest, George. You changed the world, George. We going to keep marching, George. We gon keep fighting, George. We done turned the clock, George. We going forward, George. Time out. Time out. Time out.

FLORIDO: And just after that fiery speech, there was a very emotional moment. Everyone in the chapel went silent for eight minutes, which is about the amount of time that Derek Chauvin had his neck on George Floyd's neck. I'm sorry. He had his knee on George Floyd's neck, yeah.

MCCAMMON: Right. Adrian, and clearly, this is an impassioned event, a political event in many ways. But it's also a memorial. Have there been some more personal moments?

FLORIDO: There have been. And you're right. While the speeches here are continuing the calls for justice for George Floyd and for all black Americans, a goal of this memorial is to kind of take a step back from this global outcry that Floyd's killing has set off and to remember that George Floyd may be a symbol now, but he was also a man, a son, a brother. So I'd like you to listen to what his brother Philonise said when he took the lectern.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PHILONISE FLOYD: Everybody loved George. We didn't call him George. We called him Perry. If you called him Perry, you knew him direct - you know what I mean? (laughter) - because George was the name everybody called him - Big George or Big Floyd, you know, Georgie Porgie. He had so many different names.

FLORIDO: There are - several other family members have offered other personal tidbits along those lines, really kind of reminding us that George Floyd was someone who many loved.

MCCAMMON: And, Adrian, that's what's going on inside the chapel there in Minneapolis. What's happening outside the church?

FLORIDO: Right. Well, this memorial is invitation-only. The church holds about 1,200 people, but because of social distancing, it's only about half-full. There are hundreds of people who have gathered outside, though. They've come from all over the country. I want you to listen to a man I spoke with named J.P. Pierson about why he came.

JP PIERSON: That brother, with the sacrifice of his life, he done done more in his death than he could have ever did in his life. This stuff is all over the world. Now you got them all in Spain, Italy, the U.K. He was a martyr. He gave his life for something that was righteous.

FLORIDO: I also spoke with a woman named Nina Berryhill, who took a break from work to come down to this chapel. She said she'd been really worn out by the last week of unrest all over the country, about the uncertainty about whether charges would be filed against the officers involved in Floyd's arrest. Listen to what she said.

NINA BERRYHILL: But I think now that everybody's in custody and everything is - everything will be OK. And now it's time to let him rest and to, you know, send him away nice 'cause he deserve to be sent away nice.

FLORIDO: And this memorial is a clear indication he's being sent up very nice. Hundreds of people, possibly thousands at this point here to pay their respects to George Floyd.

MCCAMMON: And, Adrian, I understand that after today, the commemorations of Floyd's life will continue outside of Minneapolis. What's next?

FLORIDO: Well, right. On Saturday, there will be another memorial service in North Carolina, which is where George Floyd was born. And then next week, the funeral and burial will be held in Houston. That is where Floyd was raised and lived most of his life and where most of his family still lives.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Adrian Florido reporting from Minneapolis. Thanks, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Sarah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.