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George Floyd Laid To Rest In Houston After Emotional Service


So the debate over policing in this country has been underway for many years. But we remember again that the intensity right now is because of the killing of George Floyd. He was laid to rest in Houston on Tuesday. NPR's John Burnett reports from Houston.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: The Reverend Remus Wright set the tone early in the service when he called on his packed church, The Fountain of Praise, to send George Floyd out in style.


REMUS WRIGHT: Now you know what that means. That means foot-stomping, toe-tapping, shouting hallelujah, praising God - amen - 'cause we are celebrating his life.

BURNETT: Over the course of nearly four hours, there were songs of praise, poems, personal memories and anger. Here's Congressman Al Green in whose district Floyd lived for most of his life.


AL GREEN: We have no expendables in our community. George Floyd was not expendable. This is why we're here.


GREEN: His crime was that he was born black.

BURNETT: There was an announcement of concrete change in the Houston Police Department, which has had six officer-involved shootings in the past seven weeks. Mayor Sylvester Turner has said the city attorney is preparing an executive order.


SYLVESTER TURNER: And what that order will say is that in this city, we will ban chokeholds and strangleholds.


TURNER: In this city, we will require de-escalation.

BURNETT: Houston could join Minneapolis, Denver, Dallas and the state of California in banning chokeholds, though the Houston Police Officers' Union says the department already prohibits chokeholds. A Minneapolis policeman killed Floyd when he pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. He's been charged with second-degree murder.

Speaker after speaker told the congregation that America cannot return to business as usual, that protesters should not abandon the fight for police reform. That was on the mind of Ken Knotts (ph), a mourner who attended the funeral and who played football with Floyd in high school.

KEN KNOTTS: Hopefully, his death doesn't go in vain and we can actually move some stuff into Congress, into, you know, the White House and into the places that it need to go to change and get some kind of reforms to get some laws changed - you know what I'm saying? - due to injustice.

BURNETT: A bill proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus would impose a nationwide ban on the use of chokeholds, but there would be time for that debate in the halls of Congress. At the end of an emotional Tuesday in Houston, a horse-drawn hearse made its way to the cemetery with police saluting along the route, burying the body of George Floyd to be interred next to his mother.

John Burnett, NPR News, Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.
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