Hollywood celebrities, musicians and politicians have gathered in front of the golden casket of George Floyd at a fiery memorial for the man whose death sparked global protests.

The Minneapolis service – the first in a series of memorials set for three cities over six days – unfolded at a sanctuary at North Central University.

A few blocks away, a judge set bail at $US750,000 ($A1.1 million) each for the three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death.

Floyd, a 46-year-old out-of-work bouncer, died on May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he lay handcuffed on the pavement, gasping that he couldn’t breathe.

Chauvin has been charged with murder, and he and the others could face up to 40 years in prison.

From coast to coast, and from Paris and London to Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, the chilling mobile phone video of Floyd’s slow death has set off turbulent and sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality, racism and inequality.

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“George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck,” the Rev Al Sharpton said in a fierce eulogy on Thursday.

“It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!”‘

The service drew the Rev Jesse Jackson, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and other members of Congress, including Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ayana Pressley.

The family of George Floyd arrive at a memorial service at North Central University. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Among the celebrities in attendance were TI, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Marsai Martin.

“All these people came to see my brother,” Philones Floyd told the crowd at the memorial in awe, as he recounted their childhoods playing catch and eating banana-mayonnaise sandwiches.

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“That’s amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts because he touched our hearts.”

Those gathered stood in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Floyd was alleged to be on the ground under the control of police.

The casket was flanked by white and purple flowers, and a vibrant image was projected above the pulpit of a mural of Floyd painted at the street corner where he was seized by police on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $US20 bill at a convenience store.

The message on the mural: “I can breathe now”.

After the Minneapolis event, Floyd’s body will go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born, for a public viewing and private family service on Saturday.

Next, a public viewing will be held Monday in Houston, where Floyd was raised and lived most of his life.

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Then a 500-person service will take place on Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church.

AAP