Erica Gardner
Erica Gardner (Courtesy of CNN via Wikimedia Commons)

Erica Garner, who became an activist for all who were wronged by the American justice system, died Saturday of complications from a heart attack. She was 27.

A Twitter account associated with Erica Garner spoke of her compassion for humanity. CNN reported that her family is controlling the account.

“When you report this you remember she was human: mother, daughter, sister, aunt,” Garner’s account tweeted. “Her heart was bigger than the world. It really, really was. She cared when most people wouldn’t have. She was good. She only pursued right, no matter what. No one gave her justice.”

Garner famously and fiercely sought justice for her father, Eric Garner, who died from a police chokehold in Staten Island, New York, on July 17, 2014.

She led marches and demonstrations in New York City and other places, and even appeared on national television imploring the Justice Department to review the circumstances that led to her father’s death.

“She was a fighter, she was a warrior and she lost the battle,” said Erica Garner’s mother, Esaw Snipes, according to CNN. “She never recovered from when her father died.”

Snipes said that Garner suffered from the effects of an enlarged heart after giving birth to her son three months ago, CNN reported.

“I warned her every day, you have to slow down, you have to relax and slow down,” Snipes said.

According to Erica Garner’s Twitter account, the activist went into cardiac arrest and suffered major brain damage from a lack of oxygen.

In a statement about Erica Garner’s work as an advocate for criminal justice reform, Rev. Al Sharpton called her a warrior.

Sharpton famously joined the Garner family in their push for justice against the New York City Police Department.

“Many will say that Erica died of a heart attack, but that’s only partially true because her heart was already broken when she couldn’t get justice for her father,” Sharpton said. “Her heart was attacked by a system that would choke her dad and not hold accountable those that did it.”

On that summer day in July 2014, officers approached Eric Garner, whom they said was illegally selling loose cigarettes near a store in Staten Island.

A video released showed Officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbing Garner from behind and applying a chokehold while other officers helped tackle Garner, whom family members said had asthma.

On the video, in a plea that has resonated around the world, Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
He died shortly after the incident.

A grand jury chose not to indict Pantaleo. The city settled a civil claim by Garner’s family for nearly $6 million.

Despite the settlement, Erica Garner pushed for justice, her voice becoming as big as any in the fight for freedom and equality.

“I had the honor of getting to know Erica and I was inspired by the commitment she made working towards a more just world for her children and future generations,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted. “She was a fighter for justice and will not be forgotten.”

Erica Garner supported Sanders’ 2016 campaign for president, even appearing in an ad for his campaign.

“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,” Sanders said.

The police “killed her unarmed, nonviolent father with an illegal chokehold and got off with nary a word,” activist Brittany Packnett wrote in a Twitter post.

“Erica had to fight for justice,” Packnett tweeted. “Then for her own life…she didn’t deserve this, her father didn’t deserve this. Her family doesn’t deserve this. All this for being Black in America. I can’t.”

In a March 2015 interview on NBC News, Erica Garner spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement and other protests that sought justice, including demonstrations related to the fatal August 2014 police shooting of Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

She recalled how it wasn’t until months after the video of her father’s death was released that his incident received national attention.

Garner described seeing her father die via a cellphone video “a thousand-million times,” and when a grand jury failed to indict the police officers involved, she said it was time to take her fight for justice to the streets.

“To me, it was just saying, ‘you know what? I’m just going to march,’” she told NBC News.

Even when there weren’t television cameras present, Garner said she was determined to keep marching and fighting.

“That’s the most annoying question I get. People ask, ‘when will you stop marching? What do you want from marching?’ He was my father,” she said during the interview. “I will always march.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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