More than 5,000 mourners gathered in Cadman Plaza for a memorial service for George Floyd on Thursday — chanting words of support for Terrence Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, and jeering at Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The event, put together in part by Terrence Floyd, kicked off with a choir performance followed by a speech by event organizer Reverend Kevin McCall, founder of the Brownsville civil rights advocacy group Crisis Action Center, who paid his respects to George Floyd and urged the audience to listen to de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray’s remarks.
“George Floyd was a godly man. A gentle giant.” McCall said, asking the crowd to listen to de Blasio’s words. “The speaker you’re going to hear next I want you to respect without booing,” he said, to moans from the crowd.
McCray and de Blasio — who drew boos from when they first arrived — delivered short speeches condemning the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “Terrence and the Floyd family, God bless you,” said de Blasio, nearly drowned out by shouts and chants. “George Floyd cannot have been allowed to die in vain.”
Several other elected officials spoke after de Blasio, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who voiced support for the protesters and called de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo “inept.”
“There are some people who want to come up here and tell you to march in a way that doesn’t make people uncomfortable … but they forget that the people who have been affected the most have been uncomfortable for four and five hundred years,” he said.
The throngs of attendees, many carrying signs, frequently started chants of “No justice, no peace,” and cheered on Terrence Floyd, who delivered brief remarks towards the end of the service. “Thank God for y’all showing love to my brother,” he said, as attendees shouted “We love you!” and “You’re not alone!”
One attendee said she felt particularly affected by the Floyd’s killing because of her own family’s experience with police brutality.
“I haven’t slept,” said Kayla Morrison, a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident. “I’m a mother and I do have a son and I have nephews and they all have been victims of police brutality on some level.”
Following the memorial, attendees marched up Tillary Street towards the Brooklyn Bridge, where police officers blocked demonstrators from walking on the roadways, since traffic continued on a portion of the Brooklyn-bound roadway. After a minutes-long standoff, police allowed the march to continue on the Manhattan-bound side, where thousands of demonstrators made their way to Manhattan with Terrence Floyd at the front.
One woman, who said she has attended four other Black Lives Matter protests in the last week, said the large crowds at each demonstration keep her coming back.
“To see everyone out here together means so much, and that’s what keeps me going out here,” said Shantel Edwards, a Bronx resident. “It’s really an emotional time, especially seeing people just get murdered in cold blood.”
The crowd snaked through Lower Manhattan, up through Foley Square, and westward to Washington Square Park, where young protest organizers spoke to the crowd.
“We are not out here looting, we are not our here protesting, we are asking you peacefully to respect Black lives,” said Chelsea Milller, one of the march’s organizers.
Miller urged attendees to vote and advocate for vast political reform, chanting “Mayor de Blasio, your time is up!”
De Blasio’s unpopularity, Miller said, comes from the perceived divide between his rhetoric and his actions in black communities.
“His mayoral campaigning received the support so much from black communities because of his black wife and his black children and supporting and aligning with Black issues,” said Miller, a 23-year-old from Brooklyn. “It’s not just enough to have close proximity to blackness — you have to stand with the issues … Everything that [he’s] done action-wise has shown a lack of leadership.”
The Cadman Plaza memorial came less than 24 hours after a protest in the same area turned violent when police sought to clear the streets after the 8 pm curfew — making several arrests and hitting protesters whose hands are up, a video shows.