Thousands gather to remember and honor Philando Castile [photos]

A home-going fit for a king

Funeral for Philando Castile at the Cathedral of St. Paul, July 14.
Funeral for Philando Castile at the Cathedral of St. Paul, July 14. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

Family, friends and community members mourned and remembered Philando Castile, with a regal home-going service Thursday, July 14.

Castile, a Black man fatally shot by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop July 6, would have been 33 years old Saturday, July 16. His killing, on the heels of the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling, another Black man, in Baton Rouge, La. a day before, set off a week of protests and unrest across the nation. Both shootings were video recorded and shared on social media.

The horse-drawn carriage carries the body of Philando Castile after the funeral July 14.
The horse-drawn carriage carries the casket of Philando Castile, July 14. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

The scene at the funeral was subdued and somber, as roughly 1,000 mourners walked the procession from Brooks Funeral Home and packed into the 3000-seat Cathedral of St. Paul.

Underscoring the high-profile nature of Philando’s killing was the sight of local dignitaries, including the Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Congressman Keith Ellison and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Faith leaders, family and musicians offered messages of unity and hope, including the Sounds of Blackness who performed their song “Optimistic” encouraging mourners to “keep their heads to the sky.”

Pastor Steve Daniels of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church called for peace and understanding, but also justice, saying of Philando’s death, “Once again we have the death of an innocent Black man whose life was taken at the hands of an officer due to his wide-set nose.” It was reported that Philando may have been mistaken for a robbery suspect with a “wide-set nose”.

Shouts of “United for Philando!” and “Justice for Phliando!” rang out as mourners cried, hugged each other, and raised their fists in solidarity as the casket passed from the steps of the chapel for the procession to the funeral home. The white horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket, and the pallbearers in their white suits, struck a serene and regal image against the overcast sky.

After the funeral, community members, including Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, the state’s Chief Inclusion Officer, James C. Burroughs II, and Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, gathered at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School where Philando worked as a cafeteria manager. The mood was somber but picked up when the Castile family arrived, all in white, and many with T-shirts dedicated to Philando.

The Castile Family posing together at the end of the community meal, July 14.
The Castile Family posed together at the end of the community meal. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

The community meal was made possible through donations from St. Paul schools,  the Teamsters union, and the Castile family, said Philando’s uncle Clarence Castile. After the meal, friends, family, and co-workers withstood bouts of rain to listen to remarks of remembrance.

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Valerie Castile thanked community members for the support at community meal. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

Taking to the flower-adorned podium after an opening prayer, Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, thanked everyone for the support and thanked Gov. Dayton for use of the cathedral. She spoke about her son as a law-abiding citizen saying “he lived by the law and died by the law” and reminded those in attendance that, “Anyone of us could be Philando.”

She added, “I don’t want my son to have died in vain. He’s opened up an avenue and platform for me to speak for him, and hopefully, this won’t happen to another child.”

Debra Douglas told the MSR her son went to high school with Philando and he remembers him fondly. She echoed Valerie’s desire to take action to prevent more police killings. “I want Black mothers, all of us Black mothers, to go into these precincts and just stand in silence and look at these officers and tell them that these are our kids that you’re killing — a silent protest to make our presence be known!”

(l-r): Janice Abosi, Felicia Palmer, Veretta Strickland (and Mia Rose Strickland), Debra Douglas, Betty Cabinet pose for a photo. Douglas stated she wanted to create a silent protest with Black mothers and women in general.
(l-r): Janice Abosi, Felicia Palmer, Veretta Strickland (holding Mia Rose Strickland), Debra Douglas, and Betty Cabinet pose for a photo. Douglas stated she wanted to create a silent protest with other Black mothers. Paige Elliott/MSR News

Co-worker Vanessa Smith shared stories of her time working with Philando, describing him as a generous spirit who always pushed her to excel and loved the kids he served. “Every kid in this building was like his own child. He would never tell none of these kids no.

“As I stand here and I see all these people out here, the only thing I can think of is Phil. And when he comes to my mind, I think patient, humble, intelligent, loving, amazing. Do you hear me?!” she said, to cheers from the Castile family and attendees.

Judy Caravalho said she didn’t know Philando, but something about the photos she’s seen of him moved her. “His pictures got into my heart,” she told the crowd. “His face was so loving. I’m here and I’m not the same.”

John Thompson, a fellow food service worker with the St. Paul School District, gave attendees a call to action stating, “I’m Philando! I obey the law. I work for the district and I don’t deserve to be shot — I don’t deserve that and neither did he!  So if he died for anything, let’s make this mean something. Don’t stop here!”

Below, see video outside of the funeral courtesy of the theuptake.org and more photos by Chris Juhn.  (Click on the photos to open slideshow)

 

Chris Juhn welcomes readers’ responses to chrisjuhnphotography@yahoo.com

Paige Elliott contributed to this story. She welcomes readers’ responses to pelliott@spokesman-recorder.com.