Floyd memorials will retrace life, push for justice in death

HOUSTON (AP) — The memorial services to honor George Floyd are extraordinary: three cities over six days, with a chance for mourners to pay their respects in the communities where he was born, grew up, and died.

But so are the circumstances surrounding them: Since his May 25 death in Minneapolis, Floyd’s name has been chanted by hundreds of thousands of people and empowered a movement. Violent encounters between police, protesters, and observers have inflamed a country already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

The organizers of the memorials want to acknowledge the meaning Floyd had in life to his large family and the broader meaning he has assumed in death, which happened after a white officer pressed a knee into the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air.

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Houston police chief Art Acevedo talks with members of the community gathered to mourn the death of George Floyd during a march across downtown Houston, Texas on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. – Anti-racism protests have put several US cities under curfew to suppress rioting, following the death of George Floyd while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, USA – JUNE 2: Security forces block the road as protesters gather near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church in Washington, United States on June 2, 2020. Protests and riots continue in cities across US following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, USA – JUNE 2: Security forces block the road as protesters gather near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church in Washington, United States on June 2, 2020. Protests and riots continue in cities across US following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

NEW YORK, USA – JUNE 01: Protestors are putting their hand up while approaching police officers during a protest demanding justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, in Manhattan, New York City, United States on June 01, 2020. (Photo by Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, USA – JUNE 2: Security forces block the road as protesters gather near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church in Washington, United States on June 2, 2020. Protests and riots continue in cities across US following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

NEW YORK, USA – JUNE 01: Hundreds of protestors march during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, New York City, United States on June 01, 2020. (Photo by Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

NEW YORK, USA – JUNE 01: Police officers arrest protestors right after the curfew time during a protest demanding justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, in Manhattan, New York City, United States on June 01, 2020. (Photo by Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A protester confronts police during a rally in downtown Lexington, Ky., against the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd, Sunday, May 31, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Demonstrators start a fire as they protest the death of George Floyd, Sunday, May 31, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A young boy holds a “Justice” sign as he peers outside the window of a car passing protesters marching through downtown for a third night of unrest Sunday May 31, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Gov. Ralph Northam issued a curfew for this evening. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

People kneel in front of the Hall of Justice in San Francisco, Sunday, May 31, 2020, at protests over the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Floyd was a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Demonstrators pray during a march, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Atlanta. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

A protest leader chants with demonstrators Sunday, May 31, 2020, after curfew in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Demonstrators march, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Atlanta. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

A protester tries to talk the police back amid tear gas in downtown Atlanta, Sunday, May 31, 2020. Protests continue across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Law enforcement officers from Calvert County Maryland Sheriff’s Office standing on the Ellipse, area just south of the White House in Washington, as they watch demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd, Sunday, May 31, 2020. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A woman is arrested after being pulled out of a passenger seat for reckless driving as protesters take to the streets in SoHo on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in New York. Protests were held throughout the city over the death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody in Minneapolis who died after being restrained by police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Protestors confront a police officer in his car in Memphis, Tennessee during a protest over the death of George Floyd May 31, 2020. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian via AP)

Protestors throw smoke bombs back at the Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies Sunday, May 31, 2020, during a protest over the death of George Floyd on May 25. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian via AP)

People break into a smoke shop on Monday, June 1, 2020, in New York. Protests were held throughout the city over the death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody in Minneapolis who died after being restrained by police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Police arrest a man in SoHo on Monday, June 1, 2020, in New York. Protests were held throughout the city over the death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody in Minneapolis who died after being restrained by police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

A white man and a black man clasp hands as police in the background guard the old state capitol in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday, June 1, 2020. It was the second day of protests in the North Carolina capital following the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while in police custody. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

Protestors celebrate after eluding authorities and stopping traffic along Interstate 55 in Memphis, Tennessee, Sunday, May 31, 2020, during a protest over the death of George Floyd on May 25. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian via AP)

A protester holds a tattered American flag as police stand guard over the old state capitol in in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday, May 31, 2020. It was the second day of protests in the North Carolina capital following the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while in police custody. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

A protester takes a knee as he tries to talk with police guarding the old state capitol in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday, May 31, 2020. It was the second day of protests in the North Carolina capital following the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while in police custody. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

Police in riot gear protect the old state capitol building in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday, May 31, 2020. It was the second day of protests in the North Carolina capital following the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while in police custody. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

A protester hugs a police officer who kneeled after protesters attending a rally against the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor chanted “Kneel with us! Kneel with us!” in Lexington, Ky., on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

A protester holds a police officer’s hand while praying together during a rally to protest the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Lexington, Ky., on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

A protester confronts police during a rally in downtown Lexington, Ky., against the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

Police officers tackle a suspect trying to escape in New York, Monday, June 1, 2020. A fourth day of protests against police brutality kept New York City on edge Sunday, as thousands of people marched and many protesters and officers tried to keep the peace after days of unrest that left police cars burned and hundreds of people under arrest. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

People run as police arrive to the scene of a broken into smoke shop in New York, Monday, June 1, 2020. A fourth day of protests against police brutality kept New York City on edge Sunday, as thousands of people marched and many protesters and officers tried to keep the peace after days of unrest that left police cars burned and hundreds of people under arrest. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A protester runs after placing a construction barrel on top of a gas grenade in downtown Fredericksburg, Va. on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

Motorists are ordered to the ground from their vehicle by police during a protest on South Washington Street, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Motorists are ordered to the ground from their vehicle by police during a protest on South Washington Street, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Arrested protesters are loaded onto a transport bus by police on South Washington Street, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Mounted Midland County sheriff’s deputies head through a crowd outside the Midland Park Mall while trying to disperse protesters during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Midland, Texas, on Sunday, May 31, 2020, following the May 25 death of George Floyd, who was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)

A demonstrator holds up a drawing depicting George Floyd in Albuquerque, N.M., Sunday, May 31, 2020. Protests were held in U.S. cities over the death of Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., Sunday, May 31, 2020. Floyd was a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., Sunday, May 31, 2020. Floyd was a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

A demonstrator holds a drawing depicting George Floyd in Albuquerque, N.M., Sunday, May 31, 2020. Floyd was a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., Sunday, May 31, 2020. Floyd was a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Police stop a driver in the SoHo shopping district Sunday, May 31, 2020, in New York. Protests were held throughout the city over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Las Vegas police disperse protesters with gas on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Las Vegas, during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Las Vegas Police disperse protesters with gas on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Las Vegas, during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Police officers arrest a protester Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles, during a protest over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Nikayla Williams rallies on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Las Vegas, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Protesters rally on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Las Vegas, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Police officers arrest a protester Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Activists march to the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in New York. Demonstrators took to the streets of New York City to protest the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen).

A young man throws a trash can through the window of an AT&T store Sunday, May 31, 2020, in New York. Demonstrators took to the streets of New York to protest the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. 5. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen).

Activists march to the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in New York. Demonstrators took to the streets of New York to protest the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen).

Protesters head away from police in Santa Monica, Calif., Sunday, May 31, 2020, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/ Christian Monterrosa)

Protesters speak to Virginia Commonwealth University police who expressed solidarity with the marchers during a third night of unrest Sunday May 31, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Gov. Ralph Northam issued a curfew for this evening. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Protesters hold hands up and chant “don’t shoot” during a standoff with Savannah police after a peaceful rally, Sunday, May 31, 2020, over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Stephen B. Morton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

A man with a face covering walks past a mural depicting George Floyd during a protest over the death of Floyd Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles. Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a police officer. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Members of California National Guard stand guard in Pershing Square, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles. The National Guard is patrolling Los Angeles as the city begins cleaning up after a night of violence by demonstrators that saw clash with officers and torch police vehicles and pillage stores. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Demonstrators march in San Francisco on Sunday, May 31, 2020, protesting the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Demonstrators rally in San Francisco on Sunday, May 31, 2020, protesting the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A Lawrence police officer hands water to protesters in Lawrence, Kan., Sunday, May 31, 2020, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

A woman is helped after being hit with pepper spray after curfew on Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

An officer points pepper spray towards people after curfew on Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A demonstrator makes a heart sign while protesting after curfew Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis.Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A protest leader chants with demonstrators Sunday, May 31, 2020, after curfew in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Authorities move through gas and detain a protester as demonstrators march, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Atlanta. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Demonstrators march, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Atlanta. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

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“It would be inadequate if you did not regard the life and love and celebration the family wants,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader who will eulogize Floyd in two cities. “But it would also be inadequate … if you acted as though we’re at a funeral that happened under natural circumstances.”

“The family is not independent of the community,” he said. “The family wants to see something happen.”

The first service will be Thursday afternoon at North Central University in Minneapolis. Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, and Floyd family attorney Ben Crump will speak.

Floyd’s body will then go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born 46 years ago, for a two-hour public viewing and private service for the family on Saturday.

Finally, a public viewing will be held Monday in Houston, where he was raised and lived most of his life. A 500-person service on Tuesday will take place at The Fountain of Praise church and will include addresses from Sharpton, Crump, and the Rev. Remus E. Wright, the family pastor. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, may attend, and other political figures and celebrities are expected as well. A private burial will follow.

Both the memorials in Minneapolis and Houston will include personal tributes and eulogies about social justice, Sharpton said.

Due to the coronavirus, Fountain of Praise will be limited to 20% of its capacity and visitors will be required to wear masks.

Floyd’s final journey was designed with intention, Sharpton said. Having left Houston for Minneapolis in 2014 in search of a job and a new life, Floyd will retrace that path.

“They collectively said we need to make the first memorial statement from the city he chose to go to make a living, that ended his life,” he said.

Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said that “for a person who was pretty much unknown to the world until just last week, this is unprecedented.”

“This has touched a nerve,” Carson said. “It’s been building up for all of American history. I think that people who are aware of the history of this country understand that there’s a lot to atone for and a lot to celebrate in terms of people who stood up for justice.”

The size of Floyd’s memorial reflects his impact and the need to recognize the widespread grief his death has caused, said Tashel Bordere, an expert on grief and assistant professor at the University of Missouri. It also reflects a tradition particularly in African American communities that large funerals can provide the recognition that a lost loved one struggled to receive in life.

But, she added, “grief goes far beyond the funeral; healing goes far beyond the funeral. Justice is experienced when people feel safe in their communities and in their lives.”

Carson said the impact of Floyd’s death would ultimately be measured by changes in how police treat African Americans and the disparate rates at which black men are incarcerated.

“Otherwise, it’ll just be the next George Floyd and the one after that,” he said.

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