It didn’t matter if you were homeless or a drug addict, George Floyd made you feel as important as the president, his brother told a crowd of mourners at a memorial service in his honour.
Family members, politicians, celebrities and civil rights activists gathered Friday morning (Australian time) in Minneapolis – the site of Mr Floyd’s killing – to pay their respects amid protests and high national tensions.
Meanwhile, three former Minneapolis police officers accused of aiding and abetting Mr Floyd’s death have had bail set at US$1 million (A$1.44 million) each.
Protests did not abate after a Minnesota judge upgraded the charge against Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Mr Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, and arrested and charged the three additional officers.
Philonise Floyd said everyone gravitated towards his brother who touched “so many people’s hearts”.
“Guys that was doing drugs, smokers and homeless people — you couldn’t tell because when you spoke to George, they felt that like they were the president because that is how he made you feel,” he said.
Mr Floyd’s death at the hands of white officers has sparked 10 days of unrest across the United States, as protesters demand an end to police brutality against African-Americans.
Reverend Al Sharpton, a television political commentator and civil rights activist, garnered applause after delivering a rousing eulogy about race.
“The reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck,” he said.
“Get your knee off our necks … We don’t need no favours, just get off of us and we can do and be whatever we can be.”
He told the Minneapolis service that this was “not a normal funeral”.
“I want us to not sit here and act like we had a funeral on the schedule. George Floyd should not be among the deceased. He did not die of common health conditions.
“He died of a common American criminal justice malfunction.”
There was no sign of Mr Floyd resisting arrest, and he was heard pleading “I can’t breathe,” which has become a rallying cry at the ongoing protests that his death sparked.
Mr Floyd’s younger brother, Terrence, took a brief moment to call for peaceful protests.
“I’m just going to say this — I’m proud of the protests, but I’m not proud of the destruction. My brother wasn’t about that,” Terrence said.
Additional services are planned in North Carolina, where Floyd was born, and Houston, where Floyd lived for many years, over the coming days.
‘The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing’
The Duchess of Sussex has shared her devastation at racial division and protests in the United States in a graduation talk to her old high school.
In a video address, Meghan shared her memories of living in the city through race riots in 1992, after police officers were filmed violently beating Rodney King.
Meghan told the all-girls school on Wednesday: “What is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of LA, has been absolutely devastating.
“I wasn’t sure what I could say to you… And I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing, because George Floyd’s life mattered.”
The video was first reported by the African-American female US magazine Essence, which reported her saying: “I was 11 or 12 years old and it was the LA riots, which was also triggered by a senseless act of racism.
“I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home, and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky, and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings.
“I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles.
“I remember pulling up the house and seeing the tree, that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don’t go away.”