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George Floyd Laid to Rest, His Legacy Reverberates Across the Globe

A horse-drawn carriage carries George Floyd’s casket to Houston Memorial Gardens in Pearland, Texas, on June 9.

"He's going to change the world."

The poignant eulogy to George Floyd delivered by his brother Rodney on Tuesday is already at least partially true, although how deep and enduring that change is will be decided by future struggles.

In a span of mere days, the death of a black man with a white policeman's knee on his neck became a parable in America's aching racial story and a rallying point for action that resonated far beyond Minnesota, where he died, and disrupted politics, business, culture and sports. Floyd's impact has spanned continents -- sparking debate and reflections across the Atlantic in Europe.

Barely known outside his own circle, Floyd suddenly became the most famous man in the world, shouldering the pain of the racially oppressed everywhere with his dying words, "I can't breathe." Yet he will never know of his fame nor perceive the change he has wrought.

Across the US, policing guidelines are being torn up and task forces are forming to address reform. The NFL admitted it had been wrong to not listen to its players about racism. In Britain, there are demands for statues honoring the authors of colonialism to be torn down. European sports stars are taking a knee to honor Floyd. The opinion editor of The New York Times, meanwhile, is out of a job after publishing an editorial that called for troops to deal with protests around the country.

The wave of protests spurred by Floyd's death and the societal turmoil it triggered will almost certainly ebb in the days after his body was carried to his grave on a horse-drawn carriage, almost with the trappings of a state funeral for a national hero.

It will be days, weeks or months before the lasting, catalytic impact of his passing can be properly assessed. But already, reforming the police to eradicate racism in the ranks after a non-ending list of deaths of African American men in custody is now a political default in Washington, as CNN's Abby Phillip pointed out.

Senate Republicans, already greeting November's elections with trepidation and watching as their President flung racial rhetoric while diverse crowds marched, hurriedly prepared their own police reform draft bill after Democrats acted first.

The move reflected fast-shifting social currents after an extraordinary period when a nationwide and ultimately peaceful uprising drove a once-in-a-century pandemic into the background.

The thronged streets of US cities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were a reminder that change really comes in America only on the back of a roused and insistent populace.

At another time, things might have been different. But in a season of sickness and fear, the power of grass roots sentiment stressed the power of humanity to write its own fate, and may have actually gathered intensity as an outlet after weeks of coronavirus shutdowns.

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