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Thousands march in Floyd's hometown

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-06-03 11:03

Protesters on horseback rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, through downtown Houston, Texas, US, June 2, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

An estimated 60,000 people marched to City Hall in George Floyd's hometown of Houston, Texas, on Tuesday to protest his death in Minneapolis police custody last week that triggered nationwide protests.

Many of the marchers wore T-shirts with Floyd's picture on it as they chanted, "What's his name? George Floyd!" and "No justice, no peace!"

The mayor's office said 60,000 people gathered downtown to honor Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minnesota on May 25. The officer, Derek Chauvin, now faces charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Floyd grew up in Houston and lived most of his life Houston's historically black Third Ward neighborhood, about a mile south of the park where the march began. He moved to Minneapolis in recent years for work.

Before beginning the 2.5-mile march to City Hall, rapper Bun B asked the crowd to kneel for 30 seconds of silence in memory of Floyd.

"We gonna sweat today ... but we ain't gonna shed a drop of blood in Houston, Texas," he said, calling for a peaceful protest.

The crowd then marched to City Hall, where they heard from relatives of Floyd and others.

Floyd's funeral is scheduled to be held in Houston next Tuesday. A public viewing for Floyd will be held on Monday at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston, USA Today reported.

Rappers Trae Tha Truth and Bun B, whose given names are Frazier Thompson III and Bernard Freeman, respectively, coordinated with Floyd's nephew Brandon Williams in organizing the march. Floyd and Thompson were longtime friends.

Trae the Truth told the crowd at City Hall, "We didn't have no idea if there was gonna be 10 people or 10,000."

The march wasn't an official city event, but Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo participated.

"If any person doesn't understand the pain of the African American community, I ask them to come out here and look at the pain in their eyes and the tears they shed," Acevedo told a local TV reporter at the march. "And I am proud to admit I have shed tears with them."

Given the continued threat of the coronavirus, the mayor urged the public to wear face masks and do their best to social distance.

At City Hall, several of Floyd's family members, including his brothers, thanked the crowd and repeated pleas for a peaceful protest.

"They expecting you to act like a fool," one relative said. "We all we got. We all we need."

Relatives also asked the marchers to continue the fight for change.

"We know this is just beginning; this is going to be a marathon," Floyd's cousin said.

US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents portions of Houston where Floyd was raised, drew cheers when she said she will introduce "revolutionary legislation" Thursday with a bill in the name of George Floyd. The legislation will call for a sea change in police departments across the nation, she said.

"It is time for a revolution of change for the dignity of all of us, no matter what our color," Lee told the crowd.

The Reverend William Lawson, who has fought for civil rights for decades, spoke of his days of marching with Dr Martin Luther King and others.

"It's not just black people who are angry. It is the world that is angry," Lawson said. "You have been heard. ... Maybe nobody had heard you before. But with the death of this one simple Houston man, you have been heard."

He called for marchers to "make some noise" and to remember their pain and passion before November's election.

"The next thing you need to do is not march, it's to register to vote," said the 91-year-old founder of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston. "We have a president and he needs to be removed from office."

Houston largely has been free of the violent protests in cities across the US, with some attributing that to the legacy of Floyd himself.

"The people who knew George the best help set the tone for Houston. They knew what he was about. He truly was a gentle giant, a sweet guy," said David Hill, a Houston community activist and pastor at Restoration Community Church, who knows the Floyd family.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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