Mourners Gather To Remember NC Native George Floyd

Pallbearers bring the body of George Floyd into Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, N.C. for a public viewing and private memorial on Saturday, June 6.
Credit Kate Medley / For WUNC

Updated at 9 p.m. ET

A line of mourners wrapped around a Raeford, N.C. church and extended down the highway Saturday, as thousands paid their last respects to George Floyd. 

Floyd, whose death became a seminal moment in the movement to protest police violence against black Americans, was born in nearby Fayetteville, N.C.

The public viewing took place at the Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination.

A public visitation for George Floyd took place Saturday, June 6 at Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, NC.
Credit Kate Medley / For WUNC

Greg Packer traveled from Huntington, N.Y. and was first in line for the public visitation.

“I was at the protest yesterday in Brooklyn, and just being there made me want to come down here," Packer said. "Just by listening to everybody speak, and just hearing his name over and over again.”

The mood was solemn as mourners waited in the midday sun. From time to time, they called out Floyd's name. Many visitors traveled from within North Carolina, and most were African American. 

Organizer Sad’a Ray of the Hoke County Parks and Recreation Department estimated 10,000 people attended. 

Mourner Angela Caraway said it was only natural for black people to come together to support Floyd’s family.

“That’s what we know. It’s in our DNA to come together when somebody else is hurting. So this is what we do,” Caraway said.

Mourners gathered for a public visitation at the Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, N.C. to honor George Floyd.
Credit Kate Medley / For WUNC

Inside the rural church, there was a sense that the country had hit a tipping point. 

“We are sick of seeing our children dead in the streets. Enough is enough,” said Baptist Rev. Christopher D. Stackhouse, who delivered the eulogy.

Local Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin acknowledged the need for change.

“America you better get this – because what they’re saying - there is no peace until there is justice,” said Peterkin. “We are part of the problem.”

Visitors erected signs in front of Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, NC. on Saturday, June 6 as part of the memorial for George Floyd.
Credit Kate Medley / For WUNC

Floyd’s casket was open for public viewing. 

“I feel like that could’ve been me, lying there," said mourner Henry Davis. "And I've could’ve been in situations where it easily could’ve escalated out of racial profiling.”

But Krishawn Royal said seeing Floyd in person carried a sense of hope. 

“You get this intense feeling. It comes, and all you can do is just lift your head up in the sky and know everything's going to be all right,” Royal said. 

The Outlaw Horse Club of Fayetteville, NC, paraded down the highway Saturday morning amidst the public memorial for George Floyd at Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, NC.
Credit Kate Medley / For WUNC

Mourner Chasity Melvin compared Floyd's memorial  to the funeral of Emmett Till. When Till was lynched as a teenager in Mississippi in 1955, his mother chose to show his body to the world.

“His mother made sure the casket was open just to show people [that] this isn’t just TV making stories up,” said Melvin. "You see it on the news and you kinda feel like it’s not real, so this is going to make it more real for everyone that walks through this church right here today.”

Floyd’s body was transported from Minneapolis, where he died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed a knee against his neck for several minutes as he pleaded to breathe. 

Thursday, civil right activist Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy at the first day of services in that city. Prominent artists, politicians and activists filled the seats, including Martin Luther King III, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and rapper T.I.

Monday, a public viewing is scheduled in Houston, where Floyd, 46, was raised and lived most of his life. He is scheduled to be laid to rest there Tuesday.

WUNC's Josie Taris contributed to this report.