Hollywood celebrities, musicians and political leaders gathered in front of the golden casket of George Floyd at a fiery memorial Thursday for the man whose death at the hands of police sparked global protests, with a civil rights leader declaring it is time for black people to demand, “Get your knee off our necks!”
The service — the first in a series of memorials set for three cities over six days — unfolded at a sanctuary at North Central University as a judge a few blocks away set bail at $750,000 each for the three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd's death.
“George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a fierce eulogy. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’”
Floyd's brother, Terrence, spoke at a demonstration in New York City.
"I thank God for you all showing love to my brother," Terrence Floyd said, according to NBC New York. "I'm proud of the protests, but I'm not proud of the destruction."
Here are the latest developments in the death of George Floyd:
U.S. & World
ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Trump Administration
The American Civil Liberties Union and others have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, alleging officials violated the civil rights of protesters who were forcefully removed from a park near the White House by police using chemical agents before President Donald Trump walked to a nearby church to take a photo.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Washington. It argues that Trump, Attorney General William Barr and other officials “unlawfully conspired to violate” the protesters’ rights when clearing Lafayette Park on Monday.
Shortly before 6:30 p.m. ET on Monday, law enforcement officers began aggressively forcing back the peaceful protesters, firing smoke bombs and pepper balls into the crowd to disperse them from the park.
The ACLU called it a “coordinated and unprovoked charge into the crowd of demonstrators.”
Barr said Thursday that he ordered the protesters to be dispersed because officials were supposed to extend a security perimeter around the White House earlier in the day. He said he arrived there later in the afternoon and discovered it hadn’t been done.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the group Black Lives Matter D.C., and individual protesters who were in Lafayette Park on Monday evening.
Attorneys: 2 Ex-Cops Charged in Floyd's Death Were Rookies
Two of three Minneapolis police officers accused of aiding and abetting in the death of George Floyd were rookies barely off probation when a more senior white officer ignored the black man's cries for help and pressed a knee into his neck, defense attorneys said Thursday.
Earl Gray said his client, former Officer Thomas Lane, had no choice but to follow the instructions of Derek Chauvin, who has since been charged with second-degree murder in Floyd's May 25 death. Gray called the case against his client “extremely weak.”
A judge set bail at $750,000 apiece for Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, when they made their first appearances in Hennepin County District Court Thursday. Simultaneously, and just blocks away , celebrities, friends and relatives gathered to memorialize Floyd at a Bible college.
The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers last week and charged Chauvin — initially with third-degree murder — the following day. But protests that began on the streets of Minneapolis quickly spread across the nation, calling for justice for Floyd and other African Americans who were killed by police.
On Wednesday, the three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. If convicted, they potentially face the same penalty as Chauvin: up to 40 years in prison.
Gray said Thursday that all Lane did was hold Floyd’s feet so he couldn't kick, and he underlined that the criminal complaint says Lane asked Chauvin twice if they should roll Floyd over and expressed concern that Floyd might be in delirium. He said Lane performed CPR in the ambulance.
“What was my client supposed to do but follow what his training officer said? Is that aiding and abetting a crime?” Gray asked.
Gray and Kueng’s defense attorney, Tom Plunkett, asked the court for lower bail, saying their clients had been police officers for just four days when Floyd was killed. Police records indicate that while the men were rookies, they had more experience than a handful of days on the force. According to their records, they joined the department in February 2019 and became full officers in December. Minneapolis officers must serve a year on probation and spend time in field training with a more senior officer before they are fully qualified.
Kueng, who is black, became a police officer because he “wanted to make his community a better place,” Plunkett said. He said Kueng was raised by his single mother on Minneapolis’ predominantly black north side.
Plunkett and Thao's attorney, Robert Paule, did not address the merits of the charges in court and declined to comment after the hearing out of respect for Floyd's family during the memorial.
White House Adds New Fencing Around Perimeter
After another night of peaceful protests outside of Lafayette Square Wednesday, workers were seen putting up new fencing barriers around the White House complex Thursday morning, adding to the 8-foot fence that was erected around the entrance to Lafayette Square earlier in the week.
Reporters arriving at the White House as early as 5:30 a.m. ET on Thursday morning described seeing black fences being put up along the Eisenhower Executive Office Building entrance on 17th St. NW, NBC News reported.
DC Protesters Keep Marching in Thunderstorms
Demonstrators protesting racial injustice continued marching in downtown D.C. despite strong thunderstorms Thursday evening.
The heavy rain began about 8 p.m. but large crowds remained, NBC Washington reported.
A huge crowd held a die-in demonstration at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, on Thursday afternoon, lying on the ground for the more than eight minutes that an officer was shown on video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. Protesters called out the names of black people killed by police.
San Jose Cites 'Coordinated' Violence Against Police
San Jose’s police chief, backed up by the city’s mayor, said Thursday that officers have been targeted by coordinated, violent attacks from agitators who hid inside crowds of peaceful protesters and then turned the streets of downtown San Jose into a “war zone.”
Mayor Sam Liccardo stood beside Police Chief Eddie Garcia at a news conference Thursday in a show of support for the police department, which has come under criticism for heavy handedness at ongoing protests against police violence sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The department has used tear gas and fired rubber bullets at the crowd, and an officer was suspended after being caught on video in an expletive-laden outburst at a female protester.
Garcia played a 5-minute video of footage collected from several days of chaotic street violence in San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. Video included rioters bashing windows of civilian and police vehicles, wheeling flaming dumpsters through the streets and hurling objects at police lines. It showed an injured officer being dragged to safety by his colleagues and another injured officer lying on the ground.
“When my boots hit the ground, I stepped into a war zone. It is not hyperbole,” said Capt. Jason Dwyer of the department’s special operations division. He recounted rocks, bottles and chunks of asphalt being thrown at officers last Friday and in the days that followed. “I have never seen anything like it.”
Kanye West Joins Chicago March
Kanye West, appearing to try to blend in as best he could with the crowd, joined a march organized by Chicago Public Schools students and activist Ja'Mal Green on the city's South Side on Thursday.
A spokesman for the rapper told NBC News earlier in the day that he donated $2 million to the families and legal teams of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
West also set up a college savings fund for Floyd's 6-year-old daughter Gianna.
Barr, Wray Name-Check Antifa, 'Other Agitators' as Responsible for Unrest; Vow Prosecution
Attorney General William Barr called Thursday a "day of mourning" the death of George Floyd, who will be eulogized at a Minneapolis memorial service, but vowed that the "day is coming, soon, when justice will be served."
Barr spoke ahead of the first in a series of a memorials to Floyd, whose death at the hands of police has sparked turbulent protests around the world against racial injustice. The DOJ and the FBI have launched a "parallel and independent" investigation into whether any federal civil right violations may have been committed. Barr said President Donald Trump directed him to "spare no effort" in their investigation.
He said he believes police chiefs and local leaders are “committed to ensuring that racism plays no part in law enforcement."
"It is undeniable that many African-Americans lack confidence in our American criminal justice system. This must change," Barr said. "Our Constitution mandates equal protection under the law, and nothing less is acceptable."
Barr said the aftermath of Floyd's death has posed another problem for "the rule of law," pointing to people exploiting gatherings to engage in looting and other crimes, and agitators hijacking protests to pursue separate and violent agendas.
Despite the arrests Wednesday of three men connected to the far-right 'Boogaloo' movement who were allegedly plotting to incite violence at a Las Vegas rally, Barr only name-checked antifa, far left anti-fascist activists, and "actors of a variety of different political persuasions" as responsible for the majority of the violence.
Trump, Barr and others have repeatedly tried to blame some of the civil unrest on left-wing extremist groups, including antifa, and other “anarchists.” Short for anti-fascists, antifa is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.
NBC News reported last weekend that members of the "Boogaloo" movement were seen at protests in states including Minnesota and Texas, as well as in Philadelphia.
FBI Director Christopher Wray also singled out antifa and "other agitators" at Thursday's news conference, saying they have “set out to sow discord and upheaval, rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice.”
“We’ve directed our 200 joint terrorism task forces around the country to assist law enforcement with apprehending and charging violent agitators who are hijacking peaceful protests on a national level,” Wray said.
Virginia’s Governor Orders Removal of Confederate Monument in Richmond
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered the removal of one of the country’s most iconic monuments to the Confederacy, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee along Richmond’s Monument Avenue, NBC Washington reports.
“In 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people,” the governor said.
The six-story-tall statue will be removed as soon as possible, Northam ordered the state’s Department of General Services. The statue will be placed in a warehouse. Discussions are ongoing on what to do with the pedestal. Placing another statue on it is a possibility, Northam said.
Rev. Robert Lee IV, an ancestor of the Confederate leader, said the state must address the painful truths of white supremacy and racism.
“A new day is coming, not only for the United States but for the world,” he said.
John Lewis Says Video of George Floyd's Killing Made Him Cry
Civil rights icon John Lewis said Thursday that the video of George Floyd's death at the hands of police in Minnesota “made me cry.”
“I kept saying to myself: How many more? How many young black men will be murdered?” said Lewis, D-Ga.
“It made me so sad. It was so painful," Lewis told “CBS This Morning.” "It made me cry."
Lewis later said in interview on the TODAY show that he was encouraged to see such diverse crowds protesting Floyd's killing, seeking the arrests of the police officers involved and demanding an end to racial injustice.
“It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds and thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets to speak up, to speak out,” he said.
"It gives me hope that as a nation, and as a people, we're going to get there," Lewis told TODAY's Al Roker. "We're going to make it. We're going to survive and there will be no turning back. There may be some setbacks, there may be people who will stand in our way, but we will not go back. We've come too far and we're not going to give up now.
Moment of Silence in DC
On Thursday, the Senate Democratic Caucus gathered for a moment of silence in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time four officers pinned George Floyd to the ground by kneeling on his neck and back before he died.
DC, LA Among Cities Ending Curfews
Widespread peaceful conduct across California at demonstrations to protest the death of George Floyd brought an end to curfews in Los Angeles and elsewhere Thursday while other cities kept restrictions in place as a precaution against looting and violence.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the end of curfews there, NBC Los Angeles reported.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will not impose a curfew on Washington, D.C., on Thursday night, following the sixth night of protests passed without a single demonstrator being placed under arrest, NBC Washington reports.
Meghan Markle Says 'George Floyd's Life Mattered' in Touching Graduation Speech
The Duchess of Sussex has shared her sadness about racial divisions in the United States, telling students at her former high school that she felt moved to speak out because the life of George Floyd mattered.
Meghan told graduates at the Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles that she wrestled with what to tell them given the days of protests after Floyd’s death.
“I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing, because George Floyd’s life mattered,” she said in a virtual address.
Floyd, an African-American, died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25. The incident sparked days of protests and riots.
The former Meghan Markle, who has an African American mother and a white father, said the unrest reminded her of riots that took place in her hometown of Los Angeles after police officers were acquitted in the video-taped beating of another African-American, Rodney King.
“I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home, and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky, and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings,’’ she said. “I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles.
“I remember pulling up the house and seeing the tree, that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don’t go away.”
The duchess’ video was first reported by the U.S. magazine Essence.
Minneapolis Officials Estimate Damage at $55M, Asks for Aid to Rebuild
Officials in Minneapolis say the looting and property damage that following the death of George Floyd has caused at least $55 million in destruction.
Vandals damaged or set fire to at least 220 buildings in the city where Floyd died, but that number is expected to go up, city officials said.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey will ask for state and federal aid to help rebuild after the civil unrest. Until that happens, community members are pitching in to support Minneapolis neighborhoods.
More than $1 million has been raised to help businesses in north Minneapolis, WCCO-TV reported. The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition says it will announce how they plan to use the money in the coming weeks.
The violence follows the death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, ignoring Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.
Prosecutors upgraded charges against the officer, Derek Chauvin, to second-degree murder on Wednesday and charged three other officers with aiding and abetting in the case that has rocked the nation with protests over race and police brutality.
Floyd Family Attorney: Charges Wouldn't Have Been Filed If Not for Protests
Ben Crump, the attorney for George Floyd's family, told TODAY show's Craig Melvin that the family is relieved over the decision by Minnesota's attorney general to upgrade the murder charges against Derek Chauvin, but they still believe that the former police officer should be charged with first-degree murder instead of second-degree.
"We believe that he had intent, based on police body cam audio, when one officer says, 'he has no pulse, maybe we should turn him on his side.' And officer Chauvin said, 'No, we'll keep him in this position,' and stood on his neck for three more minutes while he was unconscious," Crump told TODAY.
Crump also said he doesn’t believe charges would have been filed against the officers had it not been for the nationwide protests, citing precedence in cases where white officers are often not charged in the killing of unarmed black men.
He added that Thursday’s memorial service for Floyd will be a “celebration of life” but also “a plea for justice.”
"We want everyone to use their voices to say, 'No More,'" Crump said. "We are tired of dying at the hands of the people who are suppose to protect us."
More Than 10,000 Arrested Nationwide Amid Protests, AP Tally Finds
More than 10,000 people have been arrested in protests decrying racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death, according to an Associated Press tally of known arrests across the U.S.
The count has grown by the hundreds each day as protesters spilled into the streets and encountered a heavy police presence and curfews that give law enforcement stepped-up arrest powers.
Los Angeles has had about a quarter of the national arrests, followed by New York, Dallas and Philadelphia. Many of the arrests have been for low-level offenses such as curfew violations and failure to disperse. Hundreds were arrested on burglary and looting charges.
It is not known how many of the people arrested were locked up — an issue at a time when many of the nation's jails are dealing with coronavirus outbreaks. The protesters are often placed in zip-ties and hauled away from the scene in buses.
In Los Angeles, an online fundraising campaign has gathered $2 million so far to help some 2,700 people arrested in demonstrations since Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis.
The only other U.S. city with an arrest toll that comes close to Los Angeles’ is New York, with about 2,000, according to AP’s tally.
New Orleans Police Use Tear Gas to Disperse Protesters
The New Orleans Police Department tweeted early Thursday morning that it had to use tear gas to keep protesters from crossing the Crescent City Connection.
Officials say they told protesters three times that they weren't allowed to go onto the bridge, but they didn't listen.
In a second tweet, the police department reiterated "Escalation and confrontation hurts us all. NOPD is committed to respectful protection of our residents' First Amendment rights."
Seattle Protesters Use Umbrellas to Guard Against Possible Pepper Spray
A sea of protesters packed streets in Seattle on Wednesday in a sixth straight day of demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd, amid increasing criticism of the police department's repeated use of tear gas and flash-bangs to disperse mostly peaceful crowds. In a striking scene, the protesters deployed umbrellas to protect themselves against potential tear gas.
By mid-afternoon thousands had descended upon City Hall, where police holding batons formed lines behind metal barricades.
The demonstrators carried “Black Lives Matter” signs, called for cutting the department's budget and shifting the money to social programs, chanted for officers to remove their riot gear, and knelt or sat together as they surrounded the building.