George Floyd memorial in North Carolina draws long lines of mourners

Long lines of mourners formed outside a conference center in Raeford, North Carolina, on Saturday for a memorial service for George Floyd, who died last week in Minneapolis police custody.

Floyd’s body was escorted by the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office ahead of a public viewing that was held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cape Fear Conference B, about 24 miles from Fayetteville.

A private service for family members began at 3 p.m. and is being broadcast. About 125 people were expected to attend the service, said Maj. Freddy Johnson with the sheriff’s office.

Most of the mourners wore black, except members of Floyd’s family who were dressed in white. Floyd’s body rested in a closed gold coffin at the front of the room.

A choir sang songs and Bible scripture was read. Isaac Floyd, George Floyd’s uncle, sang at the service.

Before the private ceremony began, thousands of people from around the country had arrived by car, motorcycle or public transportation to attend a public viewing, NBC affiliate WRAL in Raleigh reported. As a hearse carrying Floyd’s coffin arrived, mourners chanted “black power” and “no justice, no peace.”

Floyd, who was black, died on May 25 after officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes. In a video, Floyd begs as he is pinned on the ground: “Please, please, please. I can’t breathe.”

His death has sparked nationwide protests and ignited conversations on racism and police brutality.

Roger Floyd, George Floyd’s uncle, said what broke his heart the most about his nephew’s death was when he called out to his mother who died years ago from cancer. “That’s when I said he was probably dying at that point,” he told WRAL.

Chauvin, who is white, was fired by the Minneapolis Police Department and arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. The murder charge was upgraded to second-degree Wednesday.

Three other officers involved also lost their jobs and were taken into custody on charges of aiding and abetting murder, according to criminal complaints filed by the state of Minnesota.

A mourner is overcome with grief after viewing the body of George Floyd during his memorial service, on June 6, 2020, in Raeford, N.C.John Bazemore / AP

Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, is a resident of Hoke County, where Raeford is, according to WRAL. She told the outlet that he was born in Fayetteville and eventually moved to Texas.

A memorial service is planned for Houston on Monday, followed by a private service the following day.

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin issued a statement on Facebook asking for people attending the public viewing Saturday to “be respectful to the sensitivity of the family’s time of grief.”

“The memorial is about the life that Mr. George Floyd lived and this is a time to embrace the family with expressions of love and kindness,” he said.

Gregg Packer said he took an overnight train from Long Island, New York, to North Carolina to attend the viewing.

“I felt like I needed to come down here to support the protests and the family of George Floyd,” he told The News & Observer. “I hope that we can all get along with each other, that we can start treating each other the way we all should.”

People pay their respects during a memorial service for George Floyd, Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Raeford, N.C. (Ed Clemente/The Fayetteville Observer via AP, Pool)Ed Clemente / AP

Barbara Clark, who was also at the viewing, said she was reminded of when she attended the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted after four police officers accused of beating Rodney King were acquitted.

“It reminded me of when I was in California for the riots in ‘92. Always flashing back to the same thing. Black men getting murdered,”‘ she told the outlet.

Erik Carlos of Fayetteville said Floyd’s death hit close to home. “It could have been me. It could have been my brother, my father, any of my friends who are black,” he said. “It was a heavy hit, especially knowing that George Floyd was born near my hometown.”

The first memorial service for Floyd was held Thursday in Minneapolis. Among the attendees were Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise Floyd; family attorney Benjamin Crump; Rev. Al Sharpton; actress Tiffany Haddish; comedian Kevin Hart; rappers T.I. and Ludacris; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey; and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, was also at the service. Her son died in 2014 during an arrest on Staten Island in New York City, as he, too, pleaded “I can’t breathe.”

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