Politics

'Big George' and banana sandwiches: Floyd family shares memories at emotional Minneapolis memorial

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Key Points
  • George Floyd's extended family shared their memories of "Big George" and called for justice during emotional remarks on Thursday at Floyd's Minneapolis memorial service.
  • The event, which was attended by friends and family but streamed live to the public, marked the first time that many Americans learned about the personality and life of the man whose death in the custody of Minneapolis police officers last week has spurred days of protests in dozens of cities across the country. 
  • Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader, announced a march against police violence to take place in Washington in August, on the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Sharpton delivered Floyd's eulogy. 
Philonise Floyd speaks during a memorial service for his brother George Floyd following his death in Minneapolis police custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., June 4, 2020.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

George Floyd's extended family shared their memories of "Big George" and called for justice during emotional remarks on Thursday at Floyd's Minneapolis memorial service.

The event, which was attended by friends and family but streamed live to the public, marked the first time that many Americans learned about the personality and life of the man whose death in the custody of Minneapolis police officers last week has spurred days of protests in dozens of cities across the country. 

"He was teaching us how to be a man because he was in this world before us," Rodney Floyd, George Floyd's youngest brother, said at the service. "I want you guys to know that he would stand up against any injustice anywhere," he said.

Philonise Floyd, another one of Floyd's brothers, said his brother was "like a general."

"Every day, he walks outside, there would be a line of people ... wanting to greet him, wanting to have fun with him," Philonise Floyd said. 

George Floyd's family speak during a memorial service for Floyd on June 4, 2020, at North Central University's Frank J. Lindquist Sanctuary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Kerem Yucel | AFP | Getty Images

"We came up together. We didn't have much. Our mom did what she could. We would sleep in the same beds. Play video games together. Go outside and play football. I used to say to myself, man, you can't throw, you can't throw the ball, because the ball never came to me," Philonise Floyd said.

He added that his brother had several nicknames — Big George, Big Floyd, Georgie Porgie — and eclectic eating habits.

"We made banana mayonnaise sandwiches together — it was a family thing," Philonise Floyd said. 

Brandon Williams, Floyd's nephew, said Floyd was "loving, and caring, and someone I could count on no matter what."

"I'm trying not to be sad. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be," Williams said. 

Williams said that Floyd was a big fan of LeBron James. After James' team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, won the 2016 NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors, Williams said he remembered telling Floyd that he seemed too happy about it. 

"You sound like you won the championship," Williams said he told Floyd.

"We laughed about it, and he said, 'You know how I feel about LeBron. I did win the championship.' So, every time we would talk, I would ask him, 'Hey, how are you doing man, you good?' And he would say, 'I feel like I won a championship,'" Williams said. 

Courtney Ross George Floyd's girlfriend pays respect during a memorial service for George Floyd following his death in Minneapolis police custody, in Minneapolis, in Minneapolis, U.S., June 4, 2020.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

"And that kind of stuck. It was this inside thing we had. I know with him being the strong person that he was, and seeing everyone coming together, rallying around him and extending all this love and support to our family, we are thankful and grateful, and I know, more than anything, with everybody grieving and hurting, he would want us to feel like we won the championship," Williams said.

Several more services are expected in the coming days in North Carolina and Texas. Floyd's funeral will be held in Houston on Tuesday. 

'We are going back to Washington, Martin'

Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered Floyd's eulogy, used the address to announce a march against police violence tin Washington over the summer. 

Reverend Al Sharpton speaks during a memorial service for George Floyd following his death in Minneapolis police custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., June 4, 2020.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

The march, scheduled for Aug. 28, will take place on the the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech.

"We are going back to Washington, Martin," Sharpton said, addressing Martin Luther King III, who attended the memorial.

"Just like in one era we had to fight slavery, another era Jim Crow, another era we dealt with voting rights, this is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice," Sharpton said. "We need to go back to Washington and stand up: Black, white, Latino, Arab, in the shadows of Lincoln, and tell them: This is the time to stop this."

Sharpton also said during the eulogy that "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 dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck," Sharpton said. 

"We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck," Sharpton said. "We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn't get your knee off our neck."

Memorial came as officers arraigned on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder

The memorial service, hosted at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis, came one day after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that all four former police officers involved in Floyd's violent arrest will face charges. 

Three of those officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, were arraigned on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter nearly simultaneously with the memorial service. Their bail was set at up to $1 million each

A fourth former officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged on Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Ellison added a second-degree murder charge on Wednesday. 

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, shows Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by him and the other Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Kueng, Lane and Thao have been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office | AP

The second-degree murder charge and the aiding and abetting charges each carry maximum sentences of 40 years in prison upon conviction, though actual sentences often fall short of the max. 

"It's going to take a united effort fighting in the courtroom and outside the courtroom to get justice for George Floyd," Ben Crump, an attorney for Floyd's family, said at the memorial service. 

All four police officers were fired shortly after video footage of Floyd's arrest, taken by bystanders, circulated last week. The footage shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd, who is handcuffed, cries out that he cannot breathe. 

At one point, Floyd also told the officers that "I'm about to die," according to the charging documents filed Wednesday. 

Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive, according to the documents. 

The other officers assisted in pinning Floyd to the ground and kept bystanders from interfering.