George Floyd family announce march on Washington to mark anniversary

‘Get your knees off our necks’: Powerful eulogy ends with 8-minute 46-second silence

Justin Vallejo
New York
Thursday 04 June 2020 22:43
Rev Al Sharpton gives eulogy at George Floyd memorial: 'I'm more hopeful today than ever'

The family of George Floyd will lead a march on Washington to mark the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech and “restore and recommit that dream” of the Civil Rights era.

The 28 August march was announced during a memorial to Mr Floyd on Thursday by Reverend Al Sharpton, who delivered an impassioned eulogy calling on the country to “get your knee off our necks” before an 8-minute and 46-second silence.

“We’re going back to Washington, Martin,” Mr Sharpton said to Dr King’s son, who attended the memorial alongside Hollywood celebrities, musicians and politicians to pay tribute to Mr Floyd.

”That’s where your father stood in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and said ‘I have a dream’. We’re going back this August 28th to restore and recommit that dream.”

“To stand up because just like in one era we had to fight slavery, another era we had to fight Jim Crow, another era we dealt with voting rights, this is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice.”

Mr Sharpton said the march would be led by the families of Mr Floyd, Eric Garner – who was killed by police in New York City in 2014 – and others who have suffered injustices at the hands of the criminal justice system, and he called on blacks, whites, Latinos and Arabs to return to the Lincoln Memorial because America had “never been great” for everyone.

“Talk about Make America Great. Great for who and great when? We’re going to make America great for everybody for the first time,” Mr Sharpton said.

“Never was great for blacks. Never was great for Latinos. Wasn’t ever great for others. Wasn’t great for women.”

The reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan was one of many jabs at the president during the service, which was attended by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, senator Amy Klobuchar and congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ayana Pressley.

Celebrities included TI, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Marsai Martin.

As the memorial took place in Minneapolis others joined in services around the country and the world to mark the story of Mr Floyd, who was killed when now-fired police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on the 46-year-old’s neck for almost 9 minutes on 25 May.

“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,” Mr Sharpton said.

“Man comes out of a single-parent home, educates himself and rises up and becomes the President of the United States and you ask him for his birth certificate, cause you can’t take your knee off our neck.

“It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’”

Mr Sharpton used the pulpit of Mr Floyd’s memorial to criticise Mr Trump without using his name directly, saying the president should not use Mr Floyd as a prop to push his political agenda.

“I saw somebody standing in front of a church the other day that had boarded up as a result of violence, held a bible in his hand,” Mr Sharpton said.

“I’ve been preaching since I was a little boy, I’ve never seen anyone hold a bible like that.” He continued: “We cannot use bibles as a prop and for those that have agendas that are not about justice this family will not let you use George as a prop.”

Mr Floyd’s casket was surrounded by white and purple flowers at a sanctuary at North Central University, a short distance away from a court where the three fired police were being charged with aiding and abetting his murder as the memorial took place.

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey knelt and cried by the casket, and university president Scott Hagen announced the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship.

A large mural of Mr Floyd, first painted on the street corner where he was detained, was projected above the pulpit with the words “I can breathe now”.

Mr Sharpton denounced the looting and violence that had taken place in the wake of the death in police custody, and said that those who broke the law should face justice.

The Rev Al Sharpton at a memorial to George Floyd at North Central University in Minneapolis, flanked by Gwen Carr (left), the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in New York City in 2014, and Tiffany Haddish (right)

“But so should the four policemen that caused this funeral today,” he said.

All four officers are facing charges for what the Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump, said was torture. He encouraged more people to get out on the streets and demonstrate.

“What we saw was torture. What we saw on that video was inhumane,” Mr Crump said.

The Rev Al Sharpton at a memorial to George Floyd at North Central University in Minneapolis, flanked by Gwen Carr (left), the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in New York City in 2014, and Tiffany Haddish (right)

“We cannot cooperate with evil, we cannot cooperate with injustice, we cannot cooperate with torture because George Floyd deserves better than that, we all deserve better than that, his family deserve better than that, his children deserve better than that.”

Mr Floyd’s family, brothers Philonise and Rodney Floyd, cousin Shareeduh Tate, and nephew Brandon Williams began the memorial with sweet memories of their childhood.

Philonise Floyd speaks at a memorial service for his brother, George Floyd at North Central University in Minneapolis

“All these people came to see my brother. That’s amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts because he touched our hearts,” said brother Philonise Floyd.

They remembered sitting around the dinner table fighting over the largest plate of food, arguing with the biggest brother over the largest plate.

“Banana-mayonnaise sandwiches... it was a family thing,” Mr Floyd said.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments