National civil rights leaders appeared alongside several family members of George Floyd at a prayer service Sunday night, hours before opening statements were set to begin in the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer charged in his death.
Several dozen attendees congregated in the benches at Greater Friendship Missionary Church, where preachers led worship, a choir sang and members of George Floyd’s family were joined by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who also represents the Floyd family.
The speakers called for justice in George Floyd’s death, mirroring the words spoken by leaders during a protest earlier Sunday in downtown Minneapolis.
George Floyd, who was Black, was declared dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes while George Floyd was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe.
“My brother complied,” Philonise Floyd said during the service. “He said ‘I can’t breathe.’ He said ‘mama.’ He said ‘tell my kids I love them’… Nobody should have to go through that, nobody should have to endure that.”
Chauvin is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Proceedings are scheduled to begin Monday morning, and the trial is expected to last about four weeks.
Philonise Floyd called for a conviction and urged observers to focus on the bystander video capturing his brother’s struggle, The Star-Tribune reported. Prosecutors have not said when they will play the video, but legal experts expect it to be early in the trial.
“I have faith that he will get convicted,” Philonise Floyd said. “Just like everybody who’s seen that video because the video is the proof.”
Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, added that the prayer service also served as a show of support for the Floyd family.
“I wanted them to see all these people come,” Sharpton said during the event. “I wanted them to know we’re with them… we will be there with them until the end.”