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'Protest against evil': Somber memorial for Floyd centers on ongoing push for change

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for the service, which hundreds attended.
George Floyd

A new memorial dedicated to George Floyd and other victims of police violence outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis. 

Hundreds gathered for George Floyd's memorial service at North Central University in Minneapolis Thursday, where civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, in which he called the global protests a sign of real change. 

Floyd's family shared memories of growing up with him in Houston, where he lived with his single mother, who commonly fed and took care of neighborhood kids. 

"We were raised to always welcome people and to embrace other people ... All these people, no matter who you talk to, they’ll say the same thing, and that's George was somebody who was always welcoming," said his cousin, Shareeduh Tate. "The thing I will miss about him most are his hugs. He was this great, big giant, and when he’d wrap his arms around you, you’d just feel like ... any concerns or problems you had would just go away." 

Tate asked that people pray for justice, but to also pray for Floyd's children and grandchild. 

His brother spoke of his infectious positivity. 

"Everyday he walked outside, there’d be a line of people … who wanted to greet him, have fun with him," said his brother, Philonise Floyd. "Guys that were doing drugs, like smokers and homeless people, you couldn't tell. Because when they spoke to George, they felt like they were the president, because that’s how he made them feel. He was powerful, he had a way with words. He could always make you ready to jump and go, all the time. Everybody loved George.”

His nephew, Brandon Williams, ended his remarks with an anecdote about talking to Floyd, a LeBron James fan, after the Cleveland Cavaliers won against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. 

"I told him, oh man, you sound too happy. You sound like you won the championship. He laughed and said, you know how I feel about LeBron, I did win the championship," he said. "Every time we talked, I'd say, hey, how you doing man, and he’d say, I feel like I just won the championship."

"With everyone grieving and hurting, he’d want us to feel like we won the championship," he continued. 

Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Floyd family, referenced United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in that in his fight for racial equality, he is trying to "make the Constitution real for all Americans." 

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 'he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it,'" Crump said "And so, America, we proclaim as we memorialize George Floyd, do not cooperate with evil. Protest against evil. Join the young people in the streets." 

He continued: "When we fight … What we are really doing is helping America live up to its creed. What we are really doing is helping America be the great beacon of hope and justice for all the world to marvel." 

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, in which he pushed for government leaders and everyday Americans to push for accountability in the criminal justice system. 

"This is not a normal funeral. It is not a normal circumstance. But it is too common, and we need to deal with it," Sharpton said. 

He recalled watching President Donald Trump, without naming him, posing with a bible earlier this week. 

"If he’s watching us today, I would like him to open that bible. And I’d like him to read Ecclesiastes 3: 'To every season, there is a time and a purpose.' And I think that it is our job to let the world know ... that you need to know what time it is."

A season of "building accountability in the criminal justice system" has begun, he said.

"When I look to this time, where there are marches in some cases where young whites outnumbered the black marchers, I know it’s a different time and a different season," he said. 

He called the police officer's knee on Floyd's neck a metaphor for the African American experience. 

"What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country in education, in health services, and in every area of American life. It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say, it's time to get your knee of our necks," he said.  

Sharpton ended the service with eight minutes and 46 seconds of standing in silence with attendees, matching the length of time Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck. 

"Go on home, George. Get your rest, George," Sharpton said. "You changed the world, George. We’re going to keep marching, George." 

Public officials including Gov. Tim Walz, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter attended. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Kevin Hart, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Master P, Will Packer, T.I. and Tiffany Haddish, as well as several Minnesota Vikings players, were also present. 

Earlier in the service, North Central University President Scott Hagan announced the Christian school would start a George Floyd memorial fund for aspiring black leaders. 

"I am now challenging every university in the United States of America to establish your own George Floyd memorial scholarship fund," he said. 

Two more official services will be held in North Carolina, where some of his family lives, and in his hometown of Houston, Texas.

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