NEW YORK — The daughter of Eric Garner, whose dying words while in New York police custody became a rallying cry for national police reform, was a warrior for justice, called to the spotlight after her father died, the Rev. Al Sharpton said at her memorial.
The funeral for 27-year-old Erica Garner was held Monday evening at a Harlem church and was attended by hundreds of mourners, including city officials and the rapper and actor Common. She died Dec. 30 from a heart attack brought on by an asthma attack and leaves behind an infant son and 8-year-old daughter.
Sharpton delivered the eulogy. Before the service, he told The New York Times that Erica Garner’s biggest impact was “turning her pain into power. When her father died, an activist was born. You don’t just accept injustice, you fight.”
Her father died on Staten Island in 2014. He had been arrested on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, and officers took him to the ground after he refused to be handcuffed. He cried out: “I can’t breathe!” and then became unconscious and later died. The medical examiner’s office says the chokehold contributed to his death. The officers involved have not been
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders sent in a written statement to be read at her service.
“Getting to know Erica was one of the great honors of my campaign. Erica never asked to be an activist, but responded to her own personal tragedy by becoming a fierce fighter for criminal justice reform and an end to police brutality,” he said in the statement read aloud by Sharpton.
Common told the Times he took a cross-country flight just to be at the service. Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, a teenager who was shot and killed also in 2014 by police in Ferguson, Missouri, attended. Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer also attended.
There was some drama at the service. Garner’s grandmother, Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner and herself a police reform activist, was turned away. Sharpton said it was “family friction” and shouldn’t distract from the celebration of Erica Garner’s life.