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Hollywood celebrities and the politically powerful filed for a memorial service in a sanctuary in front of George Floyd’s casket on Thursday as mourners began a three-city farewell to the man who was anonymous in life but sparked global protests for justice in death.
The service unfolded as a judge a few blocks away at North Central University set bail at $750,000 apiece for the three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with assisting and facilitating his murder.
Floyd, a black bouncer aged 46, died on May 25 when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, put his foot on his neck for several minutes as he laid handcuffed on the pavement, gasping that he cannot breathe. Chauvin was charged with murder, so he and the others could end up in prison for up to 40 years.
His death has set off from coast to coast, and from Paris and London to Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, turbulent and sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality, racism and inequality.
“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 is occurring,” civil rights leader the Rev Al Sharpton said ahead of the gathering.
The service drew the Rev Jesse Jackson, Sen Amy Klobuchar and members of Congress, including Reps Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ayana Pressley. Among the celebrities in attendance were Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Marsai Martin.
Inside the sanctuary, the casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and an image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was pinned to the pavement by police. The message on the mural: “I can breathe now.”
The sanctuary normally sits 1,000 but the capacity was reduced to about 500 due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the mourners wore masks. Memorials to Floyd are set to take place over six days in three cities: After the Minneapolis event, his body will go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born, on Saturday for a public viewing and private family service.
Next, there will be a public viewing in Houston on Monday, where he was raised and spent the rest of his life. Then a 500-person service will take place on Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church.
Floyd’s farewells arrested on suspicion of passing a $20 bill falsified in a convenience store come as demonstrations continue around the globe.