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Crowds give hero's welcome to Floyd in the most tragic of homecomings

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Mourners view Floyd’s casket at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas. Photo: Godofredo A. Vasquez/Pool via Reuters

Mourners view Floyd’s casket at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas. Photo: Godofredo A. Vasquez/Pool via Reuters

REUTERS

Mourners view Floyd’s casket at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas. Photo: Godofredo A. Vasquez/Pool via Reuters

George Perry Floyd left his hometown of Houston in Texas for Minneapolis hoping to turn his life around. He would return, he told family, when he had "made them proud".

Never could they have imagined he would come back to them in a coffin.

Yesterday, the son of Houston, who in life struggled to find his place, was in death given a hero's welcome.

Mr Floyd's death two weeks ago, after a Minnesota police officer knelt on his neck until he could no longer breathe, was recast on millions of screens across the country.

The 46-year-old's name has since become a rallying cry, galvanising one of the largest civil uprisings in modern American history.

"Everybody in the world knows who George Floyd is now," said Reginald Smith at a memorial for his friend of 35 years. "Presidents, kings and queens, they know George Floyd."

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Aftermath: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic politicians take a knee to observe a moment of silence for George Floyd. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Aftermath: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic politicians take a knee to observe a moment of silence for George Floyd. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

AFP via Getty Images

Aftermath: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic politicians take a knee to observe a moment of silence for George Floyd. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Thousands came to pay their respects at the Fountain of Praise church in Houston at a public viewing before his final farewell today.

Some fell to their knees in a gesture that has taken on great significance in the Black Lives Matter movement, before kissing the gold casket.

"This is far greater than the civil rights movement, this has become a global issue that can no longer be ignored," said Harry Bonds, 50, who drove five hours with his daughters to attend. "This is a new dawn."

To family and friends he will always be 'Perry', the "friendly giant" of few words and a big heart, who loved his children and would do anything for his four younger siblings.

His family moved to Houston from North Carolina when he was a boy. He came of age in the Cuney Homes housing project in the city's gritty Third Ward.

Mr Floyd's mother, Larcenia, or 'Cissy' as she was known, flipped burgers to put food on the table, but even then there was not enough to go round.

His brother, Philonise, joked at Mr Floyd's memorial in Minneapolis last week that they would eat banana-mayonnaise sandwiches when the cupboards were bare.

"We didn't have much, but we had a house full of love," said another brother, Rodney.

Even by the standards of Houston, life in the neighbourhood was tough. Around 28pc of its households qualified for food stamps. Employment was low and gun crime high.

This didn't stop an eight-year-old George having big dreams: his second-grade teacher said he wrote in an essay that he wanted to grow up to be a Supreme Court justice.

His teenage years, however, were marred by a series of tragedies that sent his life in a different direction.

When he was 15, his close friend and a big-brother figure was shot and killed.

Mr Floyd, a gifted athlete, decided not to go professional. Instead he turned to music.

He was an early contributor to the development of Houston's hip-hop scene, and a keen rapper. He became something of a community leader and mentor to young men from the projects.

The next decade was a struggle for Mr Floyd. He was in and out of work and "fell into the things a lot of the guys in the neighbourhood were doing", according to old friends.

After several arrests for theft and drug possession, Mr Floyd was charged in 2007 with armed robbery. After his release on parole a decade later, he decided he needed to make a change.

He moved to Minnesota to be near his maternal aunt, taking up a job at the Salvation Army by day and providing security at a restaurant by night. In March, however, he was laid off with the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

On May 25, Mr Floyd was arrested on a charge of trying to pay for a packet of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill at an off-licence in the Powderhorn Park neighbourhood of Minneapolis.

The police were called, and the rest is history. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk