Hollywood celebrities, musicians and politicians gathered in front of the golden casket of George Floyd at a fiery memorial for the man whose death at the hands of police sparked global protests.
The 46-year-old’s brother, Terrence Floyd, delivered an emotional speech at the service and had a powerful message for people participating in protests across the country.
“I am proud of the protests but I am not proud of the destruction. My brother wasn’t about that,” Terrence said.
“I want to thank God. I was upset, but I want to thank God. It wasn’t his fault. It was his purpose. It was his will.
“It took me a few days to come to that realisation, but I want to thank God.”
A huge crowd gathered outside the church to pay their respects as a civil-rights leader declared it is time for black people to demand, “Get your knee off our necks!”
The service – the first in a series of memorials set for three cities over six days – unfolded at a sanctuary at North Central University.
A silence of eight minutes and 46 seconds was held, to make the time Floyd was held down by his neck by a police officer.
The American ABC reported that there were more white people gathered outside the sanctuary than African-Americans and that the crowd was “hanging on every word”.
Among the celebrities in attendance were T.I., Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Marsai Martin.
“All these people came to see my brother,” Philonese Floyd told the crowd at the memorial in awe as he recounted their childhoods playing catch and eating banana-mayonnaise sandwiches.
“That’s amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts because he touched our hearts.”
The casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and a vibrant image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was seized by police on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
The message on the mural: “I can breathe now.”
The family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, spoke briefly during the memorial service and thanked his legal team while promising to get justice for Floyd.
“It was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd,” he stated, after it was recently announced that Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 – although he was not displaying symptoms at the time of his death.
“I want to make it clear on the record. The other pandemic that we’re far too familiar with in America, the pandemic of racism and discrimination, that killed George Floyd.”
The entire congregation applauded the civil rights leader Al Sharpton, who gave a stirring eulogy and vowed a movement to “change the whole system of justice”.
“George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamt to be is you kept your knee on our neck,” Reverend Al Sharpton said in a fierce eulogy.
“It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’”
“Time is out for not holding you accountable! Time is out for you making excuses! Time is out for you trying to stall! Time is out for empty words and empty promises! Time is out for you filibustering and trying to stall the arm of justice!” he said.
“He was a human being. He had family, he had dreams, he had hopes. The real duty of one with this type of assignment is to underscore the value of the human life that was taken, which gives the reason the movement was occurring,” Rev Sharpton said.
At the beginning of the service the university’s president, Reverend Scott Hagen, announced the creation of the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship, adding that since Mr Floyd’s death, people had given $US53,000 ($A76,000) specifically for the education of young black people.
A golden casket was surrounded by flowers inside the venue which holds 1000 but only had 500 inside due to coronavirus restrictions.
On Saturday, a public viewing and a private memorial service will be held in Raeford, North Carolina – the state where Mr Floyd was born.
His body will then return to Houston for a public memorial and private service on Tuesday.
– With wires