Mourning period for George Floyd begins as protests continue worldwide

Mourners converged in Minneapolis for the first in a series of a memorials to George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police has sparked protests around the world against racial injustice.

Thursday afternoon’s event was set for North Central University, where the civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton was scheduled to be among those eulogising the 46-year-old Mr Floyd.

“He was a human being. He had family, he had dreams, he had hopes.

“The real duty of one with this type of assignment is to underscore the value of the human life that was taken, which gives the reason the movement was occurring,” Mr Sharpton said ahead of the gathering.

Next, a public viewing will be held on Monday in Houston, where he was raised and lived most of his life.

Then a 500-person service will take place Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>A demonstrator in Turkey holds a picture of George Floyd (Emrah Gurel/AP)</figcaption>
A demonstrator in Turkey holds a picture of George Floyd (Emrah Gurel/AP)

The farewells for Mr Floyd, an out-of-work bouncer who was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit 20 US dollar bill at a convenience store and died after a white officer pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes, come as demonstrations across the US and around the globe continue.

In the US, where protests had been marked by bouts of lawlessness earlier in the week, relative quiet continued for a second straight night following a decision by prosecutors to charge the three other Minneapolis officers at the scene of Mr Floyd’s death with aiding and abetting a murder.

Authorities also filed a new, more serious murder charge, second-degree, up from third-degree, against the officer at the centre of the case, Derek Chauvin.

The new charges punctuated an unprecedented week in modern American history, in which largely peaceful protests took place in communities of all sizes but were rocked by bursts of violence, including deadly attacks on officers, theft, vandalism and arson.

In Minneapolis alone, more than 220 buildings were damaged or burned, with damage topping 55 million US dollars, city officials said.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 people have been arrested.

More than a dozen deaths have been reported, though the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.

From Paris and London to Tel Aviv, Sydney, Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro, Mr Floyd’s death has triggered demonstrations, with protesters decrying inequality, police brutality and other problems in their own countries.

“It’s a solidarity question. We stand with our brothers, internationally, our sisters as well, but the same thing is happening here. It’s no different,” Isaak Kabenge said in Stockholm.

The attorney for Mr Floyd’s family, Ben Crump, called the additional charges against the officers “a bittersweet moment” and “a significant step forward on the road to justice”.

Minnesota governor Tim Walz, said Americans need to “seize the moment” and confront the effects of racism, including unequal educational and economic opportunities.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Demonstrators project the words ‘we can’t breathe’ onto the front of the Hay Adams hotel near the White House (Alex Brandon/AP)</figcaption>
Demonstrators project the words ‘we can’t breathe’ onto the front of the Hay Adams hotel near the White House (Alex Brandon/AP)

“I think this is probably our last shot, as a state and as a nation, to fix this systemic issue,” he said.

Hundreds of protesters were in New York City’s Washington Square Park when the charges were announced.

“It’s not enough,” protester Jonathan Roldan said, insisting all four officers should have been charged from the start.

“Right now, we’re still marching because it’s not enough that they got arrested.

“There needs to be systematic change.”

The mood in New York turned sombre later in the day after a police officer on an anti-looting patrol was ambushed by a man who walked up behind him and stabbed him in the neck.

Two other officers suffered gunshot wounds to their hands in the struggle, and the attacker was in critical condition after being shot by police.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The body of George Floyd arrives before his memorial services(Julio Cortez/AP)</figcaption>
The body of George Floyd arrives before his memorial services(Julio Cortez/AP)

The new second-degree murder charge alleges Chauvin caused Mr Floyd’s death without intent while committing another felony, namely assault.

It carries a heavier sentence than the third-degree charge, which is punishable by up to 25 years behind bars.

The other officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, face the same maximum penalties.

On Wednesday night, an overpowering security team, including officers from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons and, according to a senior defence official, at least 2,200 National Guard members, was out in force as thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated in the nation’s capital.

Military vehicles were parked on streets near the White House.

An FBI plane, an Army surveillance plane and a Park Police helicopter circled overhead.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>A protester in New Orleans (AP)</figcaption>
A protester in New Orleans (AP)

At one point near the White House, protesters knelt and sang Amazing Grace amid officers in riot gear.

“We are not going anywhere!” they chanted.

There were no signs of confrontations.

Protester Jade Jones, 30, said the demonstrations would continue despite the new charges.

“That’s the least they could do,” Ms Jones said.

“It’s not going to wipe away 400 years of pain.”

In New York City, where high-end stores were looted in earlier days, some businesses fortified their property.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows were boarded up, then covered in chain-link fencing and razor wire as a line of tattooed men with dogs stood guard out front.