LOS ANGELES (CN) — Four funeral processions met in downtown Los Angeles to honor the life of George Floyd on Monday, coinciding with services in his hometown of Houston, Texas.
The Southern California procession originated in multiple locations, including the city of Long Beach where Max Thomas, 16, decorated his family’s car with “Black Lives Matter” in bright red ink.
“My closest friends who are minorities talk about police violence and they understand their voices need to be heard,” Thomas said from behind a cloth mask. “Now it’s my other friends who may not agree with me who are speaking about it too. A change has to come no matter what.”
For nearly two weeks, large protests and rallies have been a regular fixture throughout the country. In LA, thousands have marched through the streets demanding police reform and to hold officers accountable when they kill unarmed black people.
LA officials announced over the weekend that they would not prosecute civilians for participating in protests as the National Guard, who were called in after reports of looting, began to pull out of the city.
Left in their wake on Monday was prayer.
When the funeral processions converged downtown, thousands sang to honor victims of police violence and shared with each other their experiences with police brutality.
They included Quintus Moore, father of Grechario Mack, a black man who was shot and killed while having a mental breakdown at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw shopping mall.
Moore said people who criticize the Black Lives Matter movement try to paint the issue as ignoring other groups of people.
“If you live in a beautiful neighborhood and everyone has a nice home and someone else’s house catches fire, when the fire department comes it would be absurd for the person whose house isn’t on fire to say, ‘What about my house?’” Moore said.
He explained how his son was shot and killed in June 2018.
“That’s when they set my house on fire,” he said.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the LA Black Lives Matter chapter and a professor at California State University Los Angeles said, “We say Black Lives Matter unapologetically because it’s black people who stand at the bottom of every economic, social and political measure. And if we refuse to say it we will stay there.”
Abdullah told the rally crowd that she takes issue with clergy members taking a knee with police officers in a sign of solidarity.
“It’s really important that when we say abolition we mean tearing down the system of policing that we are now submitting to and also building something new,” Abdullah said.
Floyd’s body will be laid to rest later this week in his hometown. Floyd was 46 when he died on Memorial Day after a white police officer pinned his neck to the ground with his knee.
Those moments caught on video have become synonymous with the groundswell of support for victims of police violence and a push against racism.
Sisters Julianna, 17, and Katherine Maleki, 23, wrote the name of Tony McDade, a black trans man who was shot and killed by a Tallahassee, Florida police officer just two days after Floyd was killed.
“Too many people are focused on rioters and looters when they talk about protests around race,” said Julianna Maleki. “What really needs to be called attention to is people of color are not treated the same as other people. It wasn’t acceptable 100 years ago and it isn’t now.”
Dawn Modkins, co-founder of the Long Beach Black Lives Matter chapter, described the symbolism behind the procession as something that will unite people and remind them that no matter where they are police violence is present.
“This is not only to stand up and put the spotlight on the deaths that are in the national media, but in each of these cities we’re all experiencing police violence in enormous ways,” said Modkin.
Clergy members led prayers ahead of the procession, while members from the local Black Live Matter chapter poured holy water onto the ground and spoke out the names of other people of color killed by police.
Water was poured for Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was shot and killed in her Louisville, Kentucky home by police officers, as well as Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Florida in 2012.
The organizers ran out of water only after a few minutes, but continued to read out names.
Alejandra Lopez, 20, says Floyd’s murder feels different for so many reasons, like the fact that his death happened during a global pandemic.
“Folks were at home and this was able to get their attention. And they were mad,” Lopez said. “You have this feeling among minority folks who are taking the opportunity. There’s this strong momentum that cannot be denied.”