Thousands of mourners braved sweltering Texas heat on Monday to view the casket of George Floyd, whose death after a police officer knelt on his neck ignited worldwide protests against racism and calls for reforms of U.S. law enforcement.
American flags fluttered along the route to the Fountain of Praise church in Houston, where Floyd grew up, as throngs of mourners wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus formed a procession to pay final respects.
Solemnly filing through the church in two parallel lines, some mourners bowed their heads, others made the sign of the cross or raised a fist, as they paused in front of Floyd's open casket. More than 6,300 people took part in the visitation, which ran for more than six hours, church officials said.
Fire officials said several people, apparently overcome by heat exhaustion while waiting in line, were taken to hospitals."I'm glad he got the send-off he deserved," Marcus Williams, a 46-year-old black resident of Houston, said outside the church. "I want the police killings to stop. I want them to reform the process to achieve justice, and stop the killing."The public viewing came two weeks to the day after Floyd's death was captured by an onlooker's video. As a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, an unarmed and handcuffed Floyd, 46, lay face down on a Minneapolis street, gasping for air and groaning for help, before falling silent.
The case was reminiscent of the 2014 killing of another African American, Eric Garner, who died after being placed by police in a chokehold while under arrest in New York City.
The dying words of both men, "I can't breathe," have become a rallying cry in a global outpouring of rage, drawing crowds by the thousands to the streets despite health hazards from the coronavirus pandemic.
The demonstrations stretched into a third week on Monday."Even though it is a risk to come out here, I think it has been a very positive experience. You hear the stories, you feel the energy," Benedict Chiu, 24, told Reuters at an outdoor memorial service in Los Angeles."I'm here to protest the mistreatment of our black bodies. It's not going to stop unless we keep protesting," said Erica Corley, 34, one of the hundreds attending a gathering in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.
As the public viewing unfolded in Houston, Derek Chauvin, 44, the police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck and is charged with second-degree murder, made his first court appearance in Minneapolis by video link. A judge ordered his bail raised from $1 million to $1.25 million.
Chauvin's co-defendants, three fellow officers accused of aiding and abetting Floyd's murder, were previously ordered held on $750,000 to $1 million bond each.
All four were dismissed from the police department the day after Floyd's death.