In a ceremony that touched on police violence, racial inequity, and the treatment of Black Americans, family members, friends, politicians, and officials commemorated George Floyd’s life and pledged to make changes that they say could avoid deaths like his.
Kathleen McGee, Floyd’s aunt, told attendees at the Fountain of Praise church in Houston that she wanted to ‘‘thank the world for what they have done for my entire family.’’ She added: ‘‘The world knows George Floyd. I know Perry Jr.’’
Family and friends often referred to Floyd as ‘‘Perry,’’ his middle name, and McGee jokingly described him as a ‘‘pesky little rascal.’’
‘‘But we all loved him,’’ she added.
Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His final words, recorded by a bystander and shared around the world in a viral video, included ‘‘I can’t breathe’’ and became a rallying cry, sparking widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
At the public ceremony Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that his police officers will no longer be allowed to use choke holds on people in their custody.
As the crowd applauded, Turner said he planned to sign an executive order formalizing the ban when he returned to city hall.
Choke holds are neck restraints meant to make uncooperative people in custody stop resisting without seriously injuring or killing them. Several other cities, including Minneapolis, where Floyd died in police custody, and states have banned choke holds since Floyd’s death.
Turner said his executive order will also require police to deescalate confrontations, exhaust all alternatives before using their guns, and give a warning before shooting.
The mayor also declared Tuesday ‘‘George ‘Perry’ Day’’ in Houston.
‘‘We honor him today because when he took his last breath, the rest of us were able to breathe,’’ Turner, a Democrat, said.
Earlier in the service, Representative Al Green, a Texas Democrat, said the aftermath of Floyd’s death can’t be ‘‘like other times’’ and called for a new government office specializing in race relations with Black Americans.
‘‘We have a responsibility to not only George Floyd, but to those other persons, to . . . ensure the future generations that this won’t happen again,’’ he said. The congressman represents parts of Houston and some of its suburbs.
Green also mentioned the Justice in Policing Act, introduced Monday by the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and other lawmakers, that would make it illegal for police to put a foot on someone’s neck. Green also condemned other policing tactics that are being criticized after Floyd’s death.
‘‘You can’t have a no-knock law. It’s against the law,’’ he said, referring to what the bill would do if signed into law. ‘‘You’re going to have to wear your body cameras.’’
Green demanded a resolution between the country and its ‘‘differences’’ with Black Americans.
‘‘We survived slavery, but we didn’t reconcile. We survived segregation, but we didn’t reconcile,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s time for a Department of Reconciliation in the highest land, in the highest office. It’s time to have someone who is going to make it his or her business to seek reconciliation for Black people in the United States of America.’’
In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said he asked Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone Black Republican senator, to take the lead on drafting legislative proposals to address racial discrimination in law enforcement.
McConnell, addressing reporters on Capitol Hill, said ‘‘absolutely’’ it was ‘‘important that we have a response’’ to the protests and outrage after Floyd’s death.
He said he chose Scott because no one else in the Senate GOP caucus has had ‘‘the experience as an African-American dealing with this discrimination that persists some 50 years’’ after the civil rights movement.
‘‘The best way is to listen to one of our own who has had these experiences,’’ McConnell said, adding that it will be under Scott’s ‘‘guidance and leadership’’ that the Senate GOP will produce a proposal ‘‘that we think makes the most sense for the federal government in the wake of what we’ve seen and experienced in the last several weeks.’’
In a video played at the funeral, former vice president Joe Biden linked Floyd’s death in police custody to the nation’s enduring struggle for civil rights.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said in his eulogy that the outcome for Derek Chauvin, the now-fired Minneapolis police officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, and other officers who stood by without intervening would be very different if their races were flipped.
‘‘If four Black cops had done to one white what was done to George, they wouldn’t have to teach no new lessons,’’ Sharpton said at Floyd’s funeral. ‘‘They would send them to jail.’’
Sharpton called for a commitment to seek justice for Floyd’s death ‘‘because lives like George’s will not matter until somebody pays the cost.’’
He said it has long been the practice to fail to deliver consequences for ending Black lives.
‘‘This was not just a tragedy,’’ Sharpton said. ‘‘It was a crime.’’
Floyd’s niece Brooke Williams spoke strongly about Chauvin’s actions. ‘‘As long as I’m breathing, justice will be served for Perry,’’ she said.
‘‘These laws need to be changed. No more hate crimes, please,’’ she added. ‘‘Someone said make America great again, but when has America ever been great?’’