Philando Castile, resting in a white casket upon a horse-drawn carriage, led a procession to St. Paul Cathedral, where mourners paid their respects to the man killed by police last week in Falcon Heights.
The public service for the St. Paul man lasted about 90 minutes at the house of worship, which sits high upon a hill on the edge of the capital city’s downtown.
Some of the departing mourners lined up on either side of the Cathedral’s long stairs holding “Unite for Philando” signs as Castile’s casket passed by as a drizzle began and bells peeled. The casket was returned to the carriage for its trip to a private burial.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who suggested race played a role in the 32-year-old black man’s death, attended the service. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and St. Paul city leaders were among the more than 1,500 people on hand.
Many were dressed completely in white or black, and several wore T-shirts with pictures of Castile and messages, including “Rest in heaven” and “RIP Philando.”
Castile’s death came the same week as that of a black man in Louisiana, also from police gunfire. Their deaths sparked protests nationwide and intensified the long-running debate about how law enforcement interacts with blacks all around the country. At one protest in Dallas last week, five police officers were killed by a sniper who said he wanted to kill white officers.
As the ceremony started, everyone in the Cathedral was encouraged to hug the person next to them. After a resounding round of applause for Philando Castile, the Grammy-winning ensemble Sounds of Blackness broke into song.
The memorial was filled with songs, and stories and poems read by family members.
“[Castile] was a young, loving, handsome, giving, caring individual,” his uncle, Clarence Castile, said.
“I’m just amazed at how many people care about Philando and care about what happened to him,” his uncle said as he looked out at the crowded Cathedral. He urged family and friends to “stay strong for Phil.”
The Rev. Steve Daniels, Jr. of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in his eulogy questioned why racial profiling still occurs in the United States. He said he grew up in Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s and understands the frustrations of today’s protesters.
They want to feel respected, valued and are tired of being “wrongfully murdered,” Daniels said.
Source: Minnesota Star Tribune | Paul Walsh and Hannah Covington