On Saturday, Dec. 30, it was announced on Twitter that Erica Garner had passed away after suffering a massive heart attack. For those wondering who Erica Garner is, the activist dedicated her life to racial justice following the death of her father, Eric Garner. She was 27 years old.
A co-worker of Garner's has been updating her Twitter account following the heart attack — which occurred on Christmas Eve — and her hospitalization. On Dec. 27, the co-worker tweeted that Garner was showing signs of severe brain damage. She was pronounced brain-dead with no chance of recovery on Dec. 28, and her co-worker confirmed her passing via Twitter on Dec. 30. She is survived by her two children, her mother, Esaw, and her four siblings, Shardineé, Emerald, Eric Jr., and Emery.
Garner rose to prominence in the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of her father, Eric Garner. On July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, New York, he was approached by police officers after being suspected of selling loose cigarettes. Eric denied that he was selling the cigarettes and expressed frustration about being harassed. In an attempt to arrest him, officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbed him in a chokehold (a move prohibited by the NYPD) and wrestled him to the ground. Eric stated "I can't breathe" eleven times before losing consciousness and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
His death was caught on a cell phone video and soon reached news outlets. Eric's final words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for protesters around the country, who believe that Pantaleo acted unjustly. The uproar was heightened on Dec. 3, 2014 when a grand jury acquitted Pantaleo in Eric's death.
Following her father's death, Erica became an outspoken advocate for accountability among police forces across the country. She tweeted frequently about her own experiences with injustice and other instances of police brutality, and demanded reform as a means to achieving freedom for black people. She was critical of politicians on both sides of the aisle — including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio — for their roles in upholding institutionalized racism and their apparent disregard for issues important to the black community.
Garner campaigned for Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election. Sanders was outspoken about his dedication to ending police brutality against black people throughout his campaign. Garner appeared in a campaign ad expressing support for the candidate. "He's not afraid to go up against the criminal justice system," she said in the ad. "That's why I'm for Bernie."
Garner's co-worker has asked that those who write about her death remember her as having had a big heart and caring "when most people wouldn't have."
Activists and advocates for racial justice have taken to Twitter to express their admiration for Garner, their heartbreak over the loss, their memories of the young activist, and their condolences for her family.
Though Garner's heart attack has been medically linked to her asthma and an enlarged heart, there has been much conversation surrounding the stress of dealing with her father's death and being a full-time activist, and the impact both had on her health.
Writer and organizer Chaédria LaBouvier, whose work "looks at the intersection of race and class in culture and politics," lost her brother, Clinton Allen to police brutality in 2013. She interviewed Garner for Elle in March of 2016, and following Garner's death, took to Twitter to shed light on the hardships faced by black women affected by police brutality. She urged those who are passionate about racial justice to look into ways to directly support black women who are full-time activists.
Garner's co-worker has requested that non-black journalists refrain from reaching out for comment and is continuing to update Erica's Twitter account.