Hundreds of people, including prominent celebrities and politicians, gathered Thursday in Minneapolis to honor George Floyd, the man whose death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.
In his eulogy, Rev. Al Sharpton analogized Floyd’s death — pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer — to the experience of Black people in America.
“The reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck,” Sharpton said. “We don’t want no favors. Just get up off of us and we can be and do whatever we can be.”
The memorial was held at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis, a few miles from the scene of Floyd’s death. Several family members shared memories of his upbringing.
“Everybody wants justice for George,” said his brother, Philonise. “He’s gonna get it.”
Ben Crump, the family attorney, said that he is working to help America live up to its self-image.
“What we are doing is helping America be America for all Americans,” he said. “George Floyd is the moment that gives us the best opportunity that I have seen in a long time of reaching that high ideal that this country was founded upon.”
Crump also spoke about the family’s conversation with Tyler Perry. He said the family told Perry, “We are the big extended Black family… that you portray on your movie screens. You can tell this family always needed George, so it’s awfully difficult for them.”
Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, T.I., Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris were among the Black artists and entertainers in the audience. Many Minnesota leaders were also on hand, including Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, as was Rev. Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III.
Sharpton flew to the service on Perry’s private plane, along with other family members. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo knelt as Floyd’s hearse passed on the way to the service.
Floyd died after he was handcuffed and held to the ground by the neck for nearly nine minutes. He complained that he could not breathe, and bystanders urged the officers to render aid. The coroner’s office has ruled his death a homicide.
Former Officer Derek Chauvin was charged on Wednesday with second-degree murder, and three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting the crime.
Perry said earlier in the week that he had spoken with Floyd’s immediate family, and offered comfort. He said the family was “adamant in their call for peaceful protest.”