George Floyd was remembered by family and friends at a memorial service on Thursday that mixed poignant memories and humorous moments of his life with calls for genuine social justice.
In one of the most moving moments of the service, the Rev. Al Sharpton asked those in attendance to stand in silence together for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time that police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck, the video of which sparked national outrage.
“That’s how long he was laying there. They had enough time. Now what will we do?” Sharpton said.
The major TV networks carried the moment without breaking into coverage, and NBC cut away to shots of demonstrators across the country bowing their heads in silence.
Sharpton spoke to a crowd that included political and civil rights leaders and celebrities, and told mourners that “for those who agendas that are not about justice, this family will not let you use George as a prop.”
Speaking of props, “I’ve never seen anyone hold a bible like that [and] I’ve been preaching since I was a little boy,” said Sharpton in a veiled reference to President Donald Trump, who earlier this week had his photo taken in front of DC’s St John’s Episcopal church, which had been damaged.
“If he is watching, I’d like him to open that Bible and reach Ecclesiastes 3: ‘To every season, there is a time.’ I’d like him to understand what time it is.”
“This is the time for dealing with accountability in the criminal justice system,” Sharpton said, then called for greater transparency about police officers’ records, noting that police have records on citizens before saying, “Why don’t we know if police have a pattern?”
He said, referencing Obama-era policies that, “We gotta go back to consent decrees.”
“There is a time and a season for everything,” he continued. “Time is up. Time is out. This is the time.”
“You all talk about making America great,” said the reverend. “Great for who and when? We gonna make America great for everybody.”
“George Floyd’s story is the story of black folks,” said Sharpton. “You kept your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. It’s time for us in George’s name to stand up and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks.’”
“We don’t want favors, just get up off of us, and we can be and do whatever we can be.”
“Michael Jordan won all these championships,” said Sharpton, “and you look for mess because you can’t take your knee off his neck.”
“White housewives would run home to see a black woman on TV named Oprah Winfrey,” he said. “Don’t mess with her, but you just can’t take your knee off our neck.”
He continued: “A man comes out of a single parent home, educates himself and becomes president of the United States and you ask him for his birth certificate because you can’t take your knee off our neck.”
“There’s a difference between peace and quiet,” said Sharpton. “Some of you don’t want peace, you just want quiet.”
“Were going to organize in the next few months,” he promised. “We’re going to be led by the Floyd family. We’re going to be led by the Garner family. And it’s going to be not just about who’s in the White House, but the state house.”
Sharpton noted that this August is the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. He then urged, with a nod to Martin Luther King III, who was among Floyd’s mourners, “We need to go back to Washington in the shadows of Lincoln and tell them, ‘This is the time to stop this.’”
Sharpton recognized George Floyd’s family, Jesse Jackson and King, leaders of the NAACP, the American Indian Movement, a governor and a mayor before saying, “We need to stop competing…We need to organize.”
He also called out celebrities at the memorial — Kevin Hart, Master P, Tyrese Gibson, Tiffany Haddish and Ludicrous. Also at the memorial were the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
Watch Sharpton’s speech in full here.
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