Updated at 1:01 p.m. CT
A ceremony has started in memory of George Floyd, who died after a police officer pressed a knee into his neck while detaining him in Minneapolis last week, triggering protests across the country.
Members of Floyd’s family arrived in Minneapolis ahead of the memorial service, which began 1 p.m. CT in a sanctuary at North Central University in Minneapolis, which seats roughly 1,000 people.
In a statement, the university said it is taking steps “to ensure appropriate measures will be in place for health and safety related to COVID-19.”
The president of the small Christian school said he hopes the university’s sanctuary can provide “a very normal space to help the family and put aside the theater and noise that is going on,” according to the Star Tribune.
Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after he was pinned to the ground by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin. Video filmed by bystanders shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Floyd’s death set off nationwide protests against police brutality that have continued daily since the encounter.
The memorial service comes a day after new charges were announced against Chauvin and three other officers who were on the scene. Chauvin is charged with second degree murder, and the other three with aiding and abetting murder.
The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, said they are grateful the new criminal charges were filed before Floyd is laid to rest, NPR’s David Schaper reports.
“It is a source of peace in this painful time,” Crump said.
American civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, who will deliver the eulogy, said at a news conference on Wednesday he hopes the ceremony will remember the man that Floyd was.
“He was a human being. He had family, he had dreams, he had hopes,” Sharpton said. “The real duty of one with this type of assignment is to underscore the value of the human life that was taken, which gives the reason the movement was occurring.”
Floyd’s son Quincy Mason visited the site of his father’s death on Wednesday and took a knee.
“No man or woman should be without their fathers,” Mason said outside the Cup Foods convenience store in South Minneapolis.
Earlier this week, Roxie Washington, the mother of Floyd’s daughter, told reporters that 6-year-old Gianna had her father taken away too soon.
“If there’s a problem she’s having and needs her dad, she does not have that anymore,” Washington said through tears.
Gesturing to their daughter, Washington said the 6-year-old was proof Floyd was a good man.
“I want justice for him, because he was good, no matter what anybody thinks, he was good,” Washington said.
Additional services are planned in the coming days in North Carolina, where Floyd was born, and Houston, where Floyd lived much of his life.