Hundreds of people attended a memorial service yesterday for George Floyd who was killed by the police in Minneapolis on 25 May, sparking widespread protests against racism and injustice.
Civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton told mourners that Floyd’s killing marked a reckoning for the US over justice and race, and said: “Get your knee off our necks.”
Sharpton led mourners in eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence, the amount of time Floyd lay on the street with a knee pressed into his neck.
Delivering the eulogy at a memorial service inside a university chapel in Minneapolis, Sharpton said Floyd’s fate – dying at the hands of police, pinned to the ground under the knee of a white officer – symbolized a universal experience of police brutality for African Americans.
“George Floyd should not be among the deceased. He did not die of common health conditions. He died of a common American criminal justice malfunction,” Sharpton said. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks.’”
Tributes were paid to Floyd in Minneapolis and the New York city borough of Brooklyn as protesters returned to the streets of cities such as Atlanta, Washington D.C., Denver, Detroit and Los Angeles for the tenth straight day.
The protests were largely orderly in contrast with some previous nights which saw clashes between protesters and the police, arson and looting.
Protesters and organisers have said in recent days that they are looking to transform the anger over Floyd’s death into a renewed civil rights movement seeking to reform the US criminal justice system.
“This is a very seismic moment, and someday I’m going to have a kid, and he or she or they are going to ask me what I did during the uprising of 2020, during the American spring,” said Nana Mensah, a writer in her 30s from Brooklyn.
She held a sign that read: “You’re lucky we just want equality and not revenge.”
In D.C., hundreds if not thousands assembled for a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, many sitting on the ground listening to speakers and chanting, “Say his name – George Floyd,” before an evening thunderstorm dispersed the crowd.
Another group of protesters congregated near the White House, where construction workers erected concrete barriers and fences around the presidential residence.
On Wednesday, prosecutors in Minneapolis elevated murder charges against one police officer jailed last week in Floyd’s death and arrested three others accused of aiding and abetting the first.
Yesterday, the three newly arrested officers made their first appearance in court and were ordered to remain held on $750,000 (£592,267) bond each.
Their principal co-defendant, Derek Chauvin, 44, is slated to appear for his bond hearing on Monday. Chauvin is the officer seen in video footage kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd gasped for air and groaned, “I can’t breathe,” before passing out.
The four former officers, all dismissed from the Minneapolis police department the day after Floyd died, each faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
Floyd, a Houston native who had worked security at nightclubs, was unarmed when taken into custody outside a corner market where an employee had reported that a man matching his description tried to pay for cigarettes with a counterfeit bill.
His brother, Terrence Floyd, joined an outdoor memorial on Thursday in Brooklyn where many in the crowd knelt in a symbol of protest and chanted, “No justice, no peace.”
He urged the crowd to continue to seek justice but to avoid violence, saying, “My brother wasn’t about that.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took the stage to pledge that Floyd’s death would lead to substantive changes in police practices in the nation’s largest city.
A string of memorial services for Floyd were expected to stretch across six days and three states. A funeral was planned for Tuesday.
Floyd’s killing has sparked protests worldwide about police brutality and anti-black racism.
On Wednesday, thousands gathered in London’s Hyde Park to demonstrate their anger at the killing.
The protest began at 1pm, with crowds chanting “no justice, no peace” and waving signs in solidarity with demonstrators in the US.