George Floyd’s death energized a movement. He will be buried in Houston today.
After the sound and the fury, weeks of demonstrations and anguished calls for racial justice, the man whose death gave rise to an international movement and whose last words — “I can’t breathe” — have been a rallying cry, will be laid to rest on Tuesday at a private funeral in Houston.
George Floyd, who was 46, will then be buried in a grave next to his mother’s.
The service, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the Fountain of Praise church, comes after five days of public memorials in Minneapolis, North Carolina and Houston and two weeks after a Minneapolis police officer was caught on video pressing his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before Mr. Floyd died.
That officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His bail was set at $1.25 million in a court appearance on Monday.
The outpouring of anger and outrage after Mr. Floyd’s death — and the speed at which protests spread from tense, chaotic demonstrations in the city where he died to an international movement from Rome to Rio de Janeiro — has reflected the depth of frustration borne of years of watching black people die at the hands of the police or vigilantes while calls for change went unmet.
Mr. Floyd’s death, immortalized on a bystander’s cellphone video during the twilight hours of Memorial Day, has powered two weeks of sprawling protests across America against police brutality.
But Mr. Floyd, 46, was more than the nearly nine-minute graphic video of his death. He was more than the 16 utterances, captured in the recording, of some version of “I can’t breathe.”
He was an outsize man who dreamed equally big, unswayed by the setbacks of his life.
Growing up in one of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods, he enjoyed a star turn as a basketball and football player, with three catches for 18 yards in a state championship game his junior year.
He was the first of his siblings to go to college, and did so on an athletic scholarship. But when he returned to Texas after a couple of years, he lost nearly a decade to arrests and incarcerations on mostly drug-related offenses. By the time he left his hometown for good a few years ago, moving 1,200 miles to Minneapolis for work, he was ready for a fresh start.
In Minnesota, Mr. Floyd lived in a red clapboard duplex with two roommates on the eastern edge of St. Louis Park, a leafy, gentrifying Minneapolis suburb.
Beginning in 2017, he worked as a security guard at the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center, a downtown homeless shelter and transitional housing facility.
Friends, colleagues and family members remembered the man many called by his middle name. Perry.
Jonathan Veal, 45, a high school teammate of Mr. Floyd’s, remembered the star basketball player: “George turned to me and said, ‘I want to touch the world.’”
What does defunding the police mean?
Calls to defund police departments generally seek spending cuts to police forces that have consumed ever larger shares of local budgets in many cities and towns.
Minneapolis, for instance, is looking to cut $200 million from its $1.3 billion overall annual budget, said Lisa Bender, the City Council president. The police budget for 2020 is $189 million.
She says she hopes to shift money to other areas of need in the city.
If the money doesn’t go to policing, where will it be spent?
Many activists want money that is now spent on overtime for the police or on buying expensive equipment for police departments to be shifted to programs related to mental health, housing and education.
Activists say that putting sufficient money into these sectors could bring about societal change and reduce crime and violence.
Has this been done anywhere?
Some U.S. cities have already made changes to policing. In Austin, Texas, 911 calls are answered by operators who inquire whether the caller needs police, fire or mental health services — part of a major revamping of public safety that took place last year when the city budget added millions of dollars for mental health issues.
In Eugene, Ore., a team called CAHOOTS — Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets — deploys a medic and a crisis worker with mental health training to emergency calls.
Camden, N.J., revamped its policing in 2017 with officers handing out more warnings than tickets and undergoing training that emphasizes officers’ holding their fire.
Mr. Trump, who has adopted an uncompromising law-and-order posture and scorned demonstrations that have broken out in cities nationwide, surrounded himself with law enforcement officials at the White House on Monday and tried to link calls to cut police funding to his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — even though Mr. Biden had earlier come out against defunding the police.
“There won’t be defunding,” Mr. Trump said. “There won’t be dismantling of our police. There’s not going to be any disbanding of our police.”
Although aides said on Monday that Mr. Trump was studying proposals for changes to law enforcement, the president himself made little effort to suggest as much during his appearance with law enforcement officials.
“Our police have been letting us live in peace,” he said, “and we want to make sure we don’t have any bad actors in there.”
Sometimes we’ll see some horrible things like we witnessed recently,” said Mr. Trump, who took no questions from reporters invited to record the event. “But I say 99.9 — let’s go with 99 percent of them — great, great people and they’ve done jobs that are record setting.”
Attorney General William P. Barr said on Monday that the Secret Service recommended that President Trump go to his bunker on May 29 for safety because demonstrations taking place in the streets had become volatile — an account that contradicts the president’s claim that his aim in going to the bunker was to examine it.
“Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker,” Mr. Barr said in an interview with Fox News. “We can’t have that in our country.”
Last week, Mr. Trump called reports that he had gone to the bunker for security reasons false. “I went down during the day, and I was there for a tiny, little short period of time,” he said. “It was much more for an inspection — there was no problem during the day.”
The recommendation that Mr. Trump go to the bunker for his safety was one reason law enforcement officials chose to expand the perimeter line of federal officers near the White House, Mr. Barr said.
He also said that Mr. Trump’s decision to walk to nearby St. John’s Church later that afternoon had not been a factor in the plan to move the perimeter, but that he did not disagree with the decision for Mr. Trump to take his walk.
Mr. Barr did not offer a view on the merits of Mr. Trump’s decision to have a photo taken in front of the church with a group of white officials in the midst of protests about racism.
The president’s relatively last-minute plan to walk through a public park to the church prompted officers to use violent means to clear the space and the church patio of protesters and clergy members — a decision that has been widely condemned.
Asked by CBS’s Norah O’Donnell on Monday whether he supported cutting police departments’ funding, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. replied: “No, I don’t support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”
It was the first time Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, had weighed in publicly on the growing calls for some police forces to be dismantled or pared down.
His stance puts him at odds with some in his party who want to shrink police budgets and make changes in law enforcement. But his position also makes it harder for President Trump to turn it against him in the campaign.
Earlier in the day, a Biden campaign spokesman, Andrew Bates, said Mr. Biden “hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change” and “supports the urgent need for reform.”
But Mr. Bates emphasized that Mr. Biden believes providing funding is necessary to help improve policing, including by supporting “community policing programs that improve relationships between officers and residents.”
Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Katie Benner, Alexander Burns, John Eligon, Tess Felder, Katie Glueck, Russell Goldman, Maggie Haberman, Astead W. Herndon, Thomas Kaplan, Annie Karni, Jonathan Martin, Giovanni Russonello, Marc Santora, Dionne Searcey and Farah Stockman.