Family, friends and public officials gathered Thursday to honor the life of George Floyd, the 46-year-old father who died in police custody in Minneapolis last week. Floyd, known by those close to him as a "gentle giant," was remembered as a loving father who made everyone feel welcome in his presence.
The memorial, the first of four scheduled services, took place at North Central University campus, located about two miles from where Floyd lost his life. His death has reignited a nationwide movement against the police killings of black Americans.
Mourners wore masks and bumped elbows, rather than hugging or shaking hands.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson entered and prayed for several moments over Floyd's golden casket. Others followed his lead, including Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Jackson and Klobuchar greeted each other and spoke for a few minutes before heading to their seats.
Floyd's family shared their gratitude for the outpouring of love from the public and marveled at the movement triggered by Floyd's death. "I wish he was in the presence, in the flesh, to see it, this great unity," his brother said. "He would stand up for any injustice anywhere."
His sister said the thing she will miss most about him are his hugs, "because he was this big sweet giant."
Floyd will be laid to rest in his hometown of Houston on Tuesday.
Speaking at the service, Reverend Al Sharpton said now is the time to "deal with accountability in the criminal justice system."
"When I look this time and saw marches where in some cases young whites outnumbered the blacks marching, I know that it is a different time and a different season," he said. "When I looked and saw people in Germany marching for George Floyd, it's a different time and a different season."
Sharpton highlighted the national andsparked by Floyd's death, and acknowledged that some in the United States have turned destructive. Sharpton said the family does not condone violence or looting. He also urged people to remember that "there's a difference between those calling for peace and those calling for quiet."
"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 to be is you kept your knee on our neck," Sharpon said. "It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say, 'Get your knee off our necks!'"
At one point, Sharpton asked attendees to stand for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time ex-officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck. The extended moment of silence left many people in tears, including the attorney for the family, Benjamin Crump.
Many people in the crowd held signs that said, "I can't breathe." Others wrote the phrase on their face masks. Floyd repeatedly told the arresting officers he couldn't breathe in the minutes before his death.
Chauvin waswith an additional count of second-degree murder, on top of a third-degree murder charge. The three officers with him at the scene were also charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
All four of the officers involved have been arrested and are in jail.
Jamie Yuccas contributed to this report.