APP/ Foreign Correspondent --- CORRECTION-US-Floyd-Funeral Attn Eds: Please correct to read "an African-American man" instead of "an African-Asian man" in intro. Corrected story follows. 'Get your knee off our necks’ top US civil rights leader pleads at funeral of black man killed in police custody
NEW YOK, (APP):Hundreds of people joined a moving memorial service in Minneapolis Thursday to salute and grieve George Floyd, an African-American man whose death in police custody was captured on a video that horrified much of America and precipitated widespread protests.
The memorial, which was covered live, featured a moment of silence that lasted eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time a white policeman pressed his knee against Floyd's neck as he lay on the ground handcuffed on May 25, gasping that he could not breathe and calling for his mother before dying.
In a powerful eulogy, civil rights leader Al Sharpton called Floyd's death emblematic of oppression black people have faced since the country's founding.
“George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks,'' he said. "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. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks.’”
Sharpton also said he was organizing a rally in Washington, the nation's capital, the site of continuing demonstrations across the White House – scheduled for Aug. 28, the 57th anniversary of the historic March On Washington.
The four police officers linked to Floyd's arrest and killing were dismissed from the force and charged with crimes, the most serious being second-degree murder. Citing precedent in similar cases, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a Muslim, has said convicting them will be a tough task.
At the funeral, George Floyd’s family wept openly and wiped their eyes as people raised their arms in the air.
In his eulogy packed with passion, anger and the promise of hope, while criticizing President Donald Trump, Sharpton said the knee pressing down on Floyd’s neck was the story of black Americans for generations.
“The reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck,” he said. “We could do whatever anyone else could do. But we couldn’t get your knee off our neck … What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country in education and health services and in every area of American life. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks.”
Amid the fury of Sharpton’s demands and the heart-rending glimpses into Floyd’s life offered by his family, it was the nearly nine minutes of standing in silence that tested the mourners.
Each second dragging by served as a reminder to stunned relatives and friends of what seemed a near eternity that a police officer’s knee pressed down on Floyd’s neck, squeezing the life out of him. Sharpton had warned the family and other mourners at the first of three memorial services how difficult these eight minutes and 46 seconds were going to be.
“As you go through these long eight minutes, think about what George was going through, laying there for those eight minutes, begging for his own life ...”