Rest In Peace Erica Garner

Erica Garner_Activist

When her father was killed by Daniel Pantaleo, a white NYC police officer using an illegal choke hold, Erica Garner decided she’d had enough. She dedicated herself to the Black Lives Matter movement, becoming one of its most effective and beloved activists. Just 27 and a mother of 2, Erica died of a heart attack at the end of 2017. We mustn’t allow her cause to die with her.

In 2014 Erica’s father Eric Garner was stopped by the police on the suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.

Most Americans have seen the now infamous video of her father in a police chokehold repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe.

Pantaleo was never indicted by a grand jury and is currently an active NYPD officer. A civil settlement in the amount of $5.6 million was paid by the city to the family. But Erica couldn’t be silenced by money. She worked tirelessly for justice and will be remembered as a key figure in the ongoing civil rights movement.

Erica Garner_Eric Garner

Because her father’s final words were “I can’t breathe”, those words became the rallying at Black Lives Matter protests. Police accountability became Erica’s mission and she was never shy about criticising NYC mayor Bill De Blasio over policing policy.

Despite this, upon hearing of her death De Blasio issued this statement:

Erica Garner’s death is a horrible tragedy. I am praying for her family, who have already been through so much. This city will miss her unshakable sense of justice and passion for humanity.

Erica pulled no punches when pressing prominent politicians, including Barack Obama, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and de Blasio for justice and accountability

Erica campaigned for Bernie Sanders and appeared in one of his campaign ads, and on December 28th he paid tribute to her writing:

Erica Garner was an exceptional young woman. She was a loving daughter, sister, mother, friend. Jane and I send our deepest condolences to the entire Garner family and to all those she has impacted.
Though Erica didn’t ask to be an activist, she responded to the personal tragedy of seeing her father die while being arrested in New York City by becoming a leading proponent for criminal justice reform and for an end to police brutality.
— Bernie Sanders

Speaking to CNN's Don Lemon, Erica said that her father's death was as much, if not more, the result of police misconduct as of racism.

I can’t really say it’s a black and white issue…….It’s about the police officer and abusing their power.

Several months after the death of her father, Erica staged a “die-in” on the corner where her father had been choked. In the years since, she continued her passionate activism by telling her father’s story in the media and at Black Lives Matter protests around the country.

Erica Garner_Die In
Even with my own heartbreak, when I demand justice, it’s never just for Eric Garner…...It’s for my daughter; it’s for the next generation of African Americans.
— Erica Garner

Erica understood that participants in the civil rights movement must unify and resolve the  fissures and conflicts between them:

Conflicts can destroy movements….. We need to fight the system, not each other….. The police are killing our people — that’s reason enough not to fight amongst ourselves…. No movement is immune to conflict, but it’s up to every last person on the side of justice to make the decision to move forward together.
— Erica Garner and Kemi Alabi in an op ed for the Guardian in 2015

Erica and Reggie Harris, political director at the Garner Way Foundation, wrote an op-ed in the HuffPost on the anniversary of the day a grand jury failed to indict Pantaleo.

I have opened my eyes. I have studied this snapshot in time and learned that my father will never get justice. Our founding documents declared Black people property, three-fifths of the white men who used violence to enforce their will. No amendment has truly written us into humanity, and it’s clear from the state of our prisons and jails that we are not yet free.
— Erica Garner
Erica Garner_I Cant Breathe

Article by Anna Quick-Palmer