Speaking at the University of South Carolina this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders was introduced by Erica Garner, whose father died when NYPD officers choked him to death for selling loose cigarettes on the street. Pledging her support for Sanders’ presidential campaign, Garner also participated in a powerful campaign ad focusing on the Civil Rights Movement in America titled, “It’s Not Over.”
After recently teaching her six-year-old daughter about Rosa Parks, Garner had to explain to her child that the struggle still is not over. In the video, she says, “This is what mommy is. I’m an activist. I’m the same thing Martin Luther King was. He fought for our rights. This is the same thing I’m doing in honor of her pop-pop.”
On July 17, 2014, NYPD Officer Justin Damico accused Eric Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes. A witness recorded video footage of Garner arguing with Damico when Officer Daniel Pantaleo crept up behind Garner and placed him in a chokehold. Officers piled on top of Garner as he weakly repeated, “I can’t breathe.”
After releasing the chokehold, Pantaleo placed his knee on the back of Garner’s head pressing his face into the pavement. Garner died of cardiac arrest induced by Pantaleo’s chokehold. The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds in 1994 after an officer placed Anthony Baez in a chokehold resulting in his death.
“My dad’s name is Eric Garner,” Erica continued. “I was able to see my dad die on national TV. They don’t know what they took from us. I’m just trying to get the truth out there. He was being a loving and caring man that he was. And he was murdered.”
Despite the fact that six years ago Ann Coulter emphatically declared “we don’t have racism in America anymore,” the disparaging numbers of impoverished, incarcerated, and deceased minorities killed each year by the police prove otherwise. Numerous Justice Department investigations have revealed sheriff’s offices and police departments throughout the country specifically targeting minorities. In Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been found guilty of racial profiling in federal court after spending years targeting most of the Mexicans in his community.
“I’m never giving up,” Erica Garner asserted. “I’m never gonna forget what happened to my dad. Our people died for this. Martin Luther King died for this. I’m behind anyone who’s gonna listen and speak up for us. And I think we need to believe in a leader like Bernie Sanders.”
“It is not acceptable to me that we have seen young black men be beaten and be killed unjustly,” Sanders stated in the video. “I want to see an America where when young black men walk down the street, they will not be harassed by police officers. They will not be killed. They will not be shot!”
“People are dying,” Erica Garner pleaded. “This is real. This is not TV. We need a president that’s gonna talk about it.”
In addition to addressing civil rights, Sanders has been visiting universities in South Carolina this week speaking to students about criminal justice reform, repairing crumbling infrastructure, and proposals to create more jobs while raising wages and offering tuition-free public colleges. Instead of denying the existence of America’s psychological and physical defects, Sanders has the courage to address these issues head-on while fighting to give our children a better world than the one we inherited.