Support grows for brain-damaged activist Erica Garner

Artists, politicians and groups send messages of hope to anti-police brutality campaigner and daughter of Eric Garner.

    Erica Garner, named after her father Eric, is a 27-year-old campaigner against police brutality [Mike Segar/Reuters]
    Erica Garner, named after her father Eric, is a 27-year-old campaigner against police brutality [Mike Segar/Reuters]

    Rights groups, artists and politicians have rallied around Erica Garner, an activist and writer whose father's death at the hands of police ignited huge protests, as she fights for her life in hospital.

    The 27-year-old daughter of Eric Garner, the New Yorker victim of a police chokehold in July 2014, was hospitalised on December 24 after suffering a major heart attack.

    She went into a coma and on December 27; a member of her team said that she had suffered "major brain damage from a lack of oxygen while in cardiac arrest".

    Sending messages from Erica's Twitter account, the team member asked her 38,000 followers to pray for her health.

    Thousands of people have sent in their well wishes, including Democratic politician Bernie Sanders, rapper Common, actress Rosario Dawson, anti-racism activists DeRay Mckesson and Shaun King, NGOs the American Civil Liberties Union and Color of Change, and civil rights advocate Al Sharpton.

    The hashtag #EricaGarner has trended worldwide on Twitter, with more than 50,000 people writing messages about her online.

    Erica appeared in a video for Sanders' campaign to lead the party in the 2016 US presidential race.

    "My thoughts are with Erica Garner, her family and friends in hoping that she has a full recovery and rejoins the struggle for justice as soon as possible," Sanders tweeted. "I have had the privilege of joining with her at a number of events and was deeply impressed with her courage and insights."

    Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, speaks during a news conference at the National Action Network in New York July 14 [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]


    Since her father's death, Erica has become a prominent and outspoken activist campaigning against police brutality.

    Four months ago, she suffered a smaller heart attack after giving birth to a son.

    "Erica Garner suffered from two heart attacks post pregnancy. This is about a healthcare system that completely neglects pregnant Black people," said Patrisse Cullors, an artist and activist, writing on Twitter.

    Jasminne Mendez, a poet and activist, tweeted: "Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women of colour. Heart disease often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed until it is too late. Yes, I believe you can die of a broken heart. I too, at 27 almost lost my life to heart disease. Like I had a broken heart."

    Many shared their anecdotes of Erica's tireless campaigning efforts.

    "I worked w/ briefly at an event a few years ago. It had to be timed precisely because she was speaking at SEVEN events that night. Impressive, graceful, angry, and present," tweeted Zina Rose.

    Eric Garner's death 

    Viewed millions of times, a clip of Eric Garner's death shows Daniel Pantaleo, a white officer, gripping his arms around the 43-year-old's neck in a chokehold.

    Garner, a black American, also lived with asthma.

    "I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe," Garner said, as he was being pinned to the ground and asphyxiated.

    They were his last words.

    Garner, a father of six, was selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island, New York, when officers tackled him. His death was ruled a homicide, but Pantaleo was not indicted.

    Tens of thousands of people have rallied against police brutality after his death, often wearing T-shirts or holding banners that read: "I can't breathe".

    According to Mapping Violence, US police have killed at least 1,129 people so far this year.

    Black people, the database said, comprise 25 percent of those killed despite being only 13 percent of the population.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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