The Rev. Al Sharpton, the longtime activist and political commentator, took his turn mocking President Trump's widely criticized photo op in front of St. John's Church in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. Sharpton spoke at a memorial service for George Floyd, who died in custody of the Minneapolis police on May 25.
“I saw somebody standing in front of a church the other day that had been boarded up as a result of violence, held the Bible in his hand,” Sharpton said. “I’ve been preaching since I was a little boy, I’ve never seen anyone hold a Bible like that ... but since he held a Bible, if he’s watching us today, I would like him to open that Bible.”
The MSNBC host, a longtime Trump critic, asked him to turn to Ecclesiates 3:1, which reads: “To every thing there is a time, a purpose, and a season under the heavens.”
“To every season there’s a time and a purpose,” Sharpton said, quoting the Scripture. “And I think that it is our job to let the world know that when we see what is going on in the streets of this country and in Europe and around the world, that you need to know what time it is.
“We cannot use Bibles as a prop,” he continued. “And for those that have agendas, that are not about justice, this family will not let you use George as a prop.”
Both Sharpton and Benjamin Crump, the civil rights lawyer who represents Floyd’s family, took note of the crowd inside the sanctuary at North Central University, which was limited to 500 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I want us to not sit here and act like we had a funeral on the schedule,” Sharpton said. “George Floyd should not be among the deceased. He did not die of common health conditions. He died of a common American criminal justice malfunction.
“It is not a normal funeral,” he added. “It is not a normal circumstance. But it is too common, and we need to deal with it.”
“It was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd,” Crump said. “It was that other pandemic of racism and discrimination that killed George Floyd.”
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after being pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis officer who was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests.
After members of his family offered heartfelt remembrances, Crump delivered a fiery call for the protests to continue.
“What we saw was torture,” Crump said. “What we saw on that video was inhumane. What we saw on that video was evil.”
Crump then quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“And so America, we proclaim, as we memorialize George Floyd — do not cooperate with evil,” he continued. “Protest against evil. Join the young people in the streets protesting against the evil, the inhumane, the torture that they witnessed on that video. We cannot cooperate with evil. We cannot cooperate with injustice. We cannot cooperate with torture, because George Floyd deserved better than that.”
Sharpton announced that he is organizing a march on Washington on Aug. 28, the anniversary of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, to call for a federal policing equality act.
Two other services for Floyd are scheduled: one on Saturday in Raeford, N.C., where he was born, and another on Monday in Houston, where he lived before moving to Minneapolis.
Thursday’s memorial service concluded with an eight-minute, 46-second moment of silence.
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