National News

Erica Garner, Activist and Daughter of Eric Garner, Dies at 27

Posted December 30, 2017 3:08 p.m. EST

Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner who became an outspoken activist against police brutality after her father’s death at the hands of a New York police officer, died Saturday, according to her mother. She was 27.

Garner had been placed in a medically induced coma last week after an asthma episode precipitated a major heart attack. She was being treated at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, and died there. No official cause of death has been given.

“The only thing I can say is that she was a warrior,” Garner’s mother, Esaw Snipes, said in an interview Saturday. “She fought the good fight. This is just the first fight in 27 years she lost.”

Garner became a central figure in the charged conversation about race and the use of force by the police after a New York Police Department officer placed her father into an unauthorized chokehold on Staten Island in 2014 while responding to complaints he was selling untaxed cigarettes.

As Eric Garner, who also suffered from asthma, was being choked by the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, he repeated the words “I can’t breathe” 11 times — a phrase that became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement and other activists.

An autopsy by the city’s medical examiner ruled Eric Garner’s death a homicide. No charges were brought against Pantaleo.

Erica Garner was initially apprehensive about becoming a face of the movement for police accountability, according to her website. But she became outspoken, organizing a “die-in” on the same corner where her father was placed in the chokehold, and accusing Mayor Bill de Blasio of not caring about African-Americans.

In a tweet on Saturday, de Blasio praised Erica Garner’s “unshakable sense of justice and passion for humanity.” The Rev. Al Sharpton, who was close with Erica Garner and her family, blamed her death on the lack of accountability for what happened to her father.

“Media will say that Erica died of a heart attack, but that’s only partially true,” Sharpton said Saturday at a weekly rally for the National Action Network, a civil rights organization he leads. “Because her heart was already broken when she couldn’t get justice for her father.”

In an interview this month with Benjamin Dixon, the host of a progressive podcast and YouTube show, Garner described the frustrations and physical toll of her activism.

“I’m struggling right now with the stress and everything,” she said. “This thing, it beats you down. The system beats you down to where you can’t win.”

Garner had an 8-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son, whom she named after her father.

DeRay Mckesson, a national voice for the Black Lives Matter movement, said in an interview Saturday that Garner had inspired other activists.

“Erica took the truth with her everywhere she went, even if that truth made people uncomfortable,” he said, recalling her willingness to confront President Barack Obama and demand that he take a stand against racially charged policing tactics.

Civil rights activists and celebrities flooded social media with tributes to Erica Garner.

“The deaths of Eric Garner and Erica Garner remind us that police brutality brutalizes families and a nation,” Cornell William Brooks, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wrote on Twitter.

Even as Garner pressed politicians and law enforcement officials to hold the police accountable for her father’s death, she was emphatic that her personal tragedy was also a public one.

“Even with my own heartbreak, when I demand justice, it’s never just for Eric Garner,” she wrote in The Washington Post in 2016. “It’s for my daughter; it’s for the next generation of African-Americans.”

In addition to her children and mother, she is also survived by two sisters, two brothers and her grandmother, Snipes said.