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Sharpton: George Floyd's life won't matter until someone pays the cost for taking it

By
Don Jacobson & Sommer Brokaw
A horse-drawn carriage carries a golden casket containing the body of George Floyd to a cemetery in Pearland, Texas, to buried next to his mother on Tuesday. Photo by Trask Smith/UPI | License Photo

June 9 (UPI) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton asked for support for the family of George Floyd and called for police reform at a funeral service Tuesday at The Fountain of Praise church in Floyd's hometown of Houston.

"We must commit to all of this family. When the last TV truck is gone, we'll still be here," Sharpton said.

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The minister thanked former U.S. President Barack Obama and athletes and celebrities who had reached out to Floyd's family, including actor Jamie Foxx and singer Al B. Sure!, who were in the congregation.

Sharpton said the police-involved death of Floyd, 46, was a case of an "institutional, systemic problem that has been allowed to permit since we came to these shores. ... We have permitted people to become officers of the law that ought to be somewhere else.

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"How are you going to scare a bad cop, when bad cops don't go to jail?" he asked rhetorically.

Sharpton called for a quick trial of the Minneapolis officers accused in the Memorial Day death of Floyd.

"Lives like George's will not matter unless someone pays the cost for taking their lives," Sharpton added.

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The funeral for Floyd, whose death has spurred a global movement against police brutality, began Tuesday with six men bearing his gold casket into the church.

In the congregation were parents of other African Americans killed by police or hate-crime violence, including mothers of Trayvon Martin, killed at age 17 in 2012 by George Zimmerman and Eric Garner, who died in Baltimore police custody in 2014.

Also attending were the fathers of Michael Brown, who was shot unarmed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was allegedly shot and killed by a retired police officer and his son while jogging in Georgia in February.

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Floyd, 46, died on Memorial Day during an arrest by Minneapolis police officers responding to a report of a man passing a counterfeit bill at a store.

Video captured a white officer kneeling on the neck of the unarmed black man for nearly nine minutes before he died, setting off protests around the world.

U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, addressed mourners at Floyd's funeral, callling for the creation of a federal Department of Reconciliation to atone for historic and systemic racism against African Americans.

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"We have got to have reconciliation. This country has not reconciled its differences with us," Green said. "We survived slavery, but we didn't reconcile. We survived segregation, but we didn't reconcile.

"It's time for a Department of Reconciliation in the highest land, the highest office," he added. "It's time to have someone who's going to make it his business to seek reconciliation for black people in the United States of America every day of his life."

Former Vice President Joe Biden offered condolences for Floyd's family and encouraged the country to take action against systemic racism in a taped address played at the service.

"To George's family and friends ... I know the deep hole in your hearts when you bury a piece of your soul deep in this earth," Biden said in the video address.

"As I've said to you privately, we know, we know you will never feel the same again. For most people, the numbness you feel now will slowly turn day after day, season after season, into purpose, through the memory of the one you lost.

"But for you, that day has come before you can fully grieve, and unlike most, you must grieve in public, and it's a burden. A burden that is now your purpose to change the world for the better in the name of George Floyd."

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Biden added: "I know you miss that bear hug that only he could give, the pure joy of riding on his shoulders, so you could touch the sky" in referring to his daughter, Gianna, 6.

"The countless hours he spent playing any game you wanted because your smile, your laugh, your love, is the only thing that mattered at the moment. I know you have a lot of questions, honey.

"No child should have to ask questions that too many black children have had to ask for generations. Why? Why is daddy gone? ... Why in this nation do too many black Americans wake up knowing that they could lose their life in the course of just living their life?"

Biden continued: "Now is the time for racial justice. That's the answer we must give to our children when they ask why. Because when there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way way to racial justice in America. And then, as you said, Gianna, your daddy will have changed the world."

Tuesday's funeral was private, but was broadcast and live-streamed. Following the service, Floyd's body was taken by horse-drawn carriage to Houston Memorial Gardens in suburban Pearland, Texas, to be buried next to his mother, Larcenia Floyd.

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A contingent of Houston police escorted the funeral procession.

A vigil was planned for Tuesday night at First Christian Church in Houston.

"We invite the Houston community to join us outside to honor the life of George Floyd and all the other Black lives lost due to injustice," church leaders wrote in a Facebook post.

A similar vigil was held Monday at Floyd's alma mater, Jack Yates High School, where he starred in football and helped win the Texas state championship in 1992. Hundreds attended the candlelight event, including former teammates, alumni and members of the Floyd family.

Four former Minneapolis officers have been charged in Floyd's death, including Derek Chauvin, who was seen on the video pressing his knee onto Floyd's neck. A private autopsy concluded that asphyxiated him.

Chauvin faces a charge of second-degree murder. Three other officers are charged as accomplices. All four have been fired from the Police Department.

Chauvin made his first court appearance via video link on Monday. Hennepin County District Judge Jeannice Reding raised his conditional bail from $750,000 to $1 million and his unconditional bail from $1 million to $1.25 million.



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