RAEFORD, N.C. – George Floyd's death while in police custody led to "a movement" nationwide, his eulogist said, as hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday in this rural community to mourn.
Floyd's family and friends and community members – mostly dressed in black and white, using fans to cool themselves – packed a church near Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Floyd was born. Two members of North Carolina's congressional delegation, Reps. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat, and Richard Hudson, a Republican, delivered remarks, as did family members and local officials.
The Rev. Christoppher D. Stackhouse delivered a stirring eulogy about Floyd, noting "there was something different about that day" he died in Minneapolis.
Floyd, 46, was a brother, a son and a gentle giant who loved banana-and-mayonnaise sandwiches and had the nickname "Perry Jr.," Stackhouse said. His death on Memorial Day, captured on video, raised a public outcry from people of all backgrounds on the need to address racism and police violence against African Americans.
"A movement is happening today, and George Floyd sparked that fuel. … He sparked the fuel that is going to change this nation," Stackhouse said.
The images of protesters in city streets show America is grieving, Butterfield said. He vowed Floyd's death will be the "catalyst that will bring much-needed reform to our criminal justice system."
Jeremy Collins, director of engagement for Gov. Roy Cooper, read a state resolution to the family and presented them with a North Carolina state flag that had flown at the Capitol on Wednesday.
“Some death ain’t about dying,” Collins told family members. “Some death is about waking all of us up.”
Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin cited the large, diverse crowds of young protesters nationwide as evidence that law enforcement needs to change.
"I'm saying this to law enforcement all over the world," Peterkin said. "Repeat these six words: We are part of the problem."
Protests and prayers: George Floyd memorial service brings Americans together in mourning, outrage
Before the memorial, crowds gathered in a public viewing outside the R.L. Douglas Cape Fear Center. Floyd's body was placed in the center of the lobby, and mourners were allowed inside in groups of 10 and asked to wear a mask, according to Peterkin.
A crowd of peaceful demonstrators lined the road outside. A group of black men on horses rode into the parking lot, followed a few minutes later by a motorcycle group. Flowers and signs lined the street, including one that read “George Floyd changed the world."
James Galberth, 21, a Raeford resident, said he felt like everybody in the area should be on hand to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I'm here to support the cause," he said, standing in line before the public viewing.
Not too far away, a man sang the old spiritual "Wade in the Water" to those waiting to get in.
Motorcyclists are driving by the George Floyd memorial on Raeford Road. pic.twitter.com/6Px3JAMQHl
— RachaelRiley (@RachaelRiley85) June 6, 2020
The private memorial contrasted with large public gatherings across the nation Saturday expressing grief and anger.
In Washington, thousands gathered and marched outside the White House and the National Mall protesting police brutality. Officials expected the crowd in the nation's capital to be one of the largest since protests erupted last week over Floyd's death.
Friday night, hundreds marched down Raeford's Main Street to protest the death and to vow that something like this would never happen again.
“This is important to do because this is something that is ongoing,” said LaToya Gordon of Hoke County Peacemakers, a newly formed group that organized the march. “Everybody felt that we wanted people to know that we can be peaceful and be heard.”
Peterkin offered words of support for the group.
“This generation, this new group, is taking it to a whole new level,” Peterkin said. “We hear you. You’re going to get it done. We’re with you.”
Thursday, Floyd was memorialized by family and friends at Minneapolis’ North Central University, an event that included a “national eulogy” by Al Sharpton and a “national criminal justice system address” by Floyd family attorney Ben Crump.
Americans across the nation have stopped to commemorate the life and grieve the death of Floyd. Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” have given life to a searing moment in the nation’s fraught struggle for human rights.
Artists have painted murals of his image on city streets. Protesters across the world have yelled his name and demanded justice while facing off against police officers dressed in riot gear. Cities have come to a halt, enforcing curfews and closing transit systems to discourage public gatherings and looting.
The demonstrations unfold at a time of extreme hardship for black Americans, who have disproportionately been hit by the coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic implosion. Tens of millions of Americans have filed for unemployment.
Another public viewing will be held Monday in Houston, where Floyd was raised and lived most of his life. A 500-person service will take place Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church. Celebrities and political figures are expected. A private burial will follow.
Contributing: Marco della Cava, Grace Hauck and Joel Shannon, USA TODAY; Rodger Mullen, Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer; The Associated Press
Follow Melody Brown-Peyton on Twitter: @MelodyBrownPey1.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: George Floyd is being mourned near Fayetteville, North Carolina