Sharpton at Floyd memorial: ‘Get your knee off our necks’
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WKBT) — During a fiery sermon at a memorial service for the slain George Floyd in Minneapolis today, the Rev. Al Sharpton urged mourners “to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks.’”
The 46-year-old Floyd’s death on Memorial Day, when a police officer kept his knee on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, has sparked sometimes violent demonstrations in the Twin Cities and nationally.
The site of Floyd’s death, where officers were arresting him on suspicion of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes, has become a shrine of sorts, including hundreds of flowers and a large mural.
Sharpton visited there today before he delivered the sermon at North Central University, experiencing emotions that he related during his sermon.
Floyd’s excruciating death prompted Sharpton to describe it as a metaphor for the African-American experience, the longtime civil rights leader said.
“When I stood at that spot, the reason it got to me is 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.
“What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services and in every area of American life,” he said. “It’s time to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks!”
Sharpton also referred to Floyd’s repeated entreaties for “mama,” among his final words, which also included pleas of, “I can’t breathe.”
In preparation for the sermon, Sharpton said he had asked to speak to Floyd’s mother, but family members told him she had died. One of Floyd’s sons suggested that, perhaps, Floyd was seeing his mother in the throes of death, the evangelist/activist said.
Sharpton expanded on that, saying that Floyd’s mom could have been beckoning him to a place where he never would experience pain again, where police would not kill him.
Incidents such as Floyd’s death dash hope, Sharpton said, adding that people must rely on hope’s sister, faith, to persevere in the struggle for social justice.
The four officers were fired the day after Floyd’s death. The principal officer involved, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. The other three were arrested Wednesday and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Floyd moved from his native Houston, Texas, several years ago to pursue better job opportunities. He drove trucks and was a bouncer at a restaurant/bar, where Chauvin also worked until the facility closed because of physical distancing regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wire services contributed to this report.
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