Every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m., the 24-year-old who said she has seen the cellphone footage of her dad dying in a choke hold of a Staten Island police officer “a thousand-million times” marches from the Staten Island ferry to the Supreme Court, and from the Supreme Court to the 126th precinct. “Then I walk the back street down Baystreet, to the actual spot where my father was murdered,” she told nbcnews.com.
Erica Garner walks without the attention of the news media; the cameras are gone, unlike in Ferguson, where the police force has been reprimanded by the Justice Department and tension in the community remains. But she marches anyway. For her father.
“That’s the most annoying question I get,” she said. “People ask, ‘when will you stop marching? What do you want from marching?’ He was my father. I will always march.”
She said she regrettably accepts that she sometimes marches with no company, although protests persist over Michael Brown’s shooting on August 9, weeks after her father was killed.
“Some days it gets discouraging,” she said. “People in Staten Island aren’t really speaking up. I tell them, ‘Speak up! This happened in your neighborhood. My dad was the guy that you see every day.'”
Not surprisingly, she said she was disappointed that officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted by a grand jury for her father’s death. A poll by the New York Times and Siena College said that two-thirds of New Yorkers believed Pantaleo should have been charged.
Now, cops bother her, Erica said. “They’ve stopped protesters from coming across the water [to march]. They’ve followed me in unmarked cars, and even barricaded the Supreme Court steps so people will think [the march] isn’t happening.”
She founded the Garner Way Foundation and has been frequently asked to speak to schools, churches and conferences. The attention has, at times, been overwhelming.
But she marches on. “To see that [Police Commissioner Bill] Bratton is not even trying to punish those guys, is like proof that there is corruption there,” Garner said.
And that’s why she walks. “Sometimes [people think] he had a heart attack,” she said. “Sometimes it was his respiratory problem. It’s a shame because I know what happened on that video,” says Erica. “He was jumped. He was murdered for no reason at all. The cops had been bothering him for a long time.”
She wants people to know, to remind them of the truth: That her father died for no good reason. To share that fact, “I’m just going to march,” she said.