HOUSTON (Reuters) – Thousands of mourners braved sweltering Texas warmth on Monday to view the casket of George Floyd, whose demise after a police officer knelt on his neck ignited worldwide protests towards racism and calls for reforms of U.S. regulation enforcement.

American flags fluttered alongside the route to the Fountain of Praise church in Houston, the place Floyd grew up, as throngs of mourners sporting face coverings to forestall unfold of the coronavirus shaped a procession to pay closing respects.

Solemnly submitting via the church in two parallel strains, some mourners bowed their heads, others made the signal of the cross or raised a fist, as they paused in entrance of Floyd’s open casket. More than 6,300 folks took half within the visitation, which ran for greater than six hours, church officers mentioned.

Fire officers mentioned a number of folks, apparently overcome by warmth exhaustion whereas ready in line, had been taken to hospitals.

“I’m glad he got the send-off he deserved,” Marcus Williams, a 46-year-old black resident of Houston, mentioned exterior the church. “I want the police killings to stop. I want them to reform the process to achieve justice, and stop the killing.”

The public viewing got here two weeks to the day after Floyd’s demise was captured by an onlooker’s video. As a white police officer knelt on his neck for practically 9 minutes, an unarmed and handcuffed Floyd, 46, lay face down on a Minneapolis avenue, gasping for air and groaning for assist, earlier than falling silent.

The case was paying homage to the 2014 killing of one other African American, Eric Garner, who died after being positioned by police in a chokehold whereas below arrest in New York City.

The dying phrases of each males, “I can’t breathe,” have change into a rallying cry in a worldwide outpouring of rage, drawing crowds by the hundreds to the streets regardless of well being hazards from the coronavirus pandemic.

The demonstrations stretched into a 3rd week on Monday.

“Even though it is a risk to come out here, I think it has been a very positive experience. You hear the stories, you feel the energy,” Benedict Chiu, 24, advised Reuters at an out of doors memorial service in Los Angeles.

“I’m here to protest the mistreatment of our black bodies. It’s not going to stop unless we keep protesting,” mentioned Erica Corley, 34, considered one of a whole lot attending a gathering within the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.

As the general public viewing unfolded in Houston, Derek Chauvin, 44, the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck and is charged with second-degree homicide, made his first court docket look in Minneapolis by video link. A choose ordered his bail raised from $1 million to $1.25 million.

Chauvin’s co-defendants, three fellow officers accused of aiding and abetting Floyd’s homicide, had been beforehand ordered held on $750,000 to $1 million bond every.

All 4 had been dismissed from the police division the day after Floyd’s demise.

Unleashed amid pent-up anxiousness and despair inflicted by a pandemic that has hit minority communities particularly arduous, the demonstrations have reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter motion and thrust calls for for racial justice and police reforms to the highest of America’s political agenda forward of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Protests in numerous U.S. cities had been initially punctuated by episodes of arson, looting and clashes with police, deepening a political disaster for President Donald Trump as he repeatedly threatened to order the army into the streets to assist restore order.

POLICE ‘DEFUNDING’ STIRS CONTROVERSY

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who’s difficult the Republican Trump within the election, met with Floyd’s relations for greater than an hour in Houston on Monday, in accordance to the household’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump.

“He listened, heard their pain and shared in their woe,” Crump mentioned. “That compassion meant the world to this grieving family.” Floyd was due to be buried on Tuesday.

In Washington, Democrats in Congress unveiled laws to make lynching a federal hate crime and to permit victims of police misconduct and their households to sue regulation enforcement for damages in civil court docket, ending a authorized doctrine identified as certified immunity.

The invoice additionally would ban chokeholds and require the usage of physique cameras by federal regulation enforcement officers, place new restrictions on the usage of deadly pressure and facilitate unbiased probes of police departments that present patterns of misconduct.

Some departments are already taking motion. On Monday, the Los Angeles Police Commission mentioned town’s police division had agreed to a right away moratorium on coaching and utilizing chokeholds.

Attorney Ben Crump raises his arm as Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, whose demise in Minneapolis police custody has sparked nationwide protests towards racial inequality, will get emotional whereas talking through the public viewing of Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas, U.S., June 8, 2020. Standing on the left is Reverend Al Sharpton and within the background is George Floyd’s youthful brother Rodney Floyd. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

The laws doesn’t name for police departments to be de-funded or abolished, as some activists have demanded. But lawmakers referred to as for spending priorities to change.

Trump pledged to keep funding for police departments, saying 99% of police had been “great, great people.”

“There won’t be defunding, there won’t be dismantling of our police,” Trump advised a roundtable of state, federal, and native regulation enforcement officers on the White House.

Biden opposes the motion to defund police departments however helps the “urgent need” for reform, a spokesman for his presidential marketing campaign mentioned.

A high-spirited environment that prevailed over a collection of mass demonstrations through the weekend was marred late on Sunday when a person drove a automotive right into a rally in Seattle after which shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him. The suspect, Nikolas Fernandez, was charged on Monday with assault.

Separately, a person described by prosecutors as an admitted member of the Ku Klux Klan and “propagandist for Confederate ideology,” was arrested on suspicion of driving his pickup truck right into a rally close to Richmond, Virginia, late on Sunday.

Also in Richmond, a choose issued a 10-day injunction blocking plans by the state governor to take away a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

For a graphic on Floyd’s demise sparks worldwide protests:

here

For a graphic on Weapons of Control: What U.S. police are utilizing to corral, subdue and disperse demonstrators:

here

For Special Report on How union, Supreme Court protect Minneapolis cops:

Slideshow (29 Images)

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For a graphic on Before the court docket: A united entrance takes goal at certified immunity:

here

Reporting by Erwin Seba and Gary McWilliams in Houston, David Morgan and Susan Heavey in Washington, Nathan Layne and Trevor Hunnicutt in New York, Andrea Shalal in Silver Spring, Rollo Ross in Los Angeles, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brad Brooks in Austin; Writing by Paul Simao and Steve Gorman; Editing by Howard Goller, Bill Tarrant, Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.

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