As protests surrounding George Floyd’s killing enter their second week, his brother and New York City leaders gathered in Brooklyn on Thursday to pay homage to the man who is the latest addition to a growing list of black Americans who were killed at the hands of police brutality.
“George Floyd represents peace,” said Reverend Kevin McCall, who organized the event. “He was a godly man, a gentle giant. And we must keep his memory as such.”
Thousands of people began to gather in Cadman Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn around 1 p.m., and the memorial service kicked off about an hour later with a gospel song. McCall opened the afternoon with a few words about Floyd, and thanked Floyd’s brother Terrence for being there. He then welcomed Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray to the stage, and asked the crowd to refrain from booing.
“No family should have to endure what this family had to endure,” McCray said. “Our country is in need of a rebirth, and birth is painful.”
The crowd was less receptive to Mayor de Blasio than to his wife, who has come under fire recently for his response to the protests, as well as to the coronavirus, which has resulted in nearly 17,000 deaths in New York City.
“George Floyd cannot have been allowed to die in vain,” de Blasio said over boos and chants calling for his resignation. “We need to make a change in this city and this country. I thank you for being here for change.”
The crowd next heard from Attorney General Letitia James, who addressed Terrence to tell him that he is not alone in his loss and sadness.
“An entire generation of warriors are praying with their feet,” James said, in reference to the thousands of people who have marched and taken part in protests throughout the city. “We march and we pray that the spark that ignited the fires of change, that have always simmered but have never fully flamed throughout our nation’s history, burn bright in the hearts of all of you who believe in God’s love for one another, that all of us are part of one human family and we’re all God’s children.”
She also mentioned Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna, saying that she prays that she carries her father’s memory with her and is not brought down by the injustice of his death.
“Every change in this country has started with young people,” James said. “And so to my young warriors and to the family — march, until the stagnant and intractable walls of racism come down.”
The crowd also heard from three New York members of Congress, before hearing from Terrence Floyd, who took the podium to great cheers and chants of “you are not alone.” He began by thanking God, saying that he was upset at first about his brother’s death but realized he couldn’t blame God for his loss. “Because at the end of the day, my brother is gone but the Floyd name still lives on,” Floyd said.
Floyd is from Brooklyn and has lived in Queens, and he expressed how grateful he was that so many people in his hometown had come out to pay tribute to his brother. “I got a call from a friend, he’s in Australia, he said there’s a movement going on over there,” Floyd said. “I hear it’s going on all over the world. But I feel so good knowing that my borough — I thank God for y’all.”
He also thanked the crowd for taking part in the protests, but condemned the destruction that has unfolded in some parts of the city. “My brother wasn’t about that,” Floyd said. “The Floyds is a God-fearing family.”
As the service wrapped up, Floyd played a song about his brother and other lives that have been lost to police brutality for the crowd. The event finished with a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, and thousands of attendees made their way out of the plaza and followed the service’s leaders as they crossed into Manhattan.
Photos and video by Emmy Freedman