New York

Scuffle Breaks Out at Funeral for Erica Garner, Activist Daughter of Eric Garner

Hawk Newsome, head of the New York chapter of Black Lives Matter, said Eric Garner's mother -- Erica's grandmother -- could not get in because of "political nastiness"

What to Know

  • Mourners gathered to say farewell to Erica Garner, the activist daughter of Eric Garner, who died on Dec. 30, 2017 at age 27
  • Eric Garner was killed in 2014 after being put into a chokehold by NYPD officers stopping him for selling loose cigarettes
  • Erica Garner became an outspoken advocate against police brutality in the years following her father's death

Mourners packed a Harlem church to say goodbye to the activist daughter of Eric Garner, the man killed in a police chokehold on Staten Island in 2014 and whose death sparked nationwide protests. 

Erica Garner died at Woodhull Hospital on Dec. 30 after suffering an asthma-triggered heart attack earlier this month. She was 27.

Erica became a prominent activist after her father died at 43. He was recorded on cellphone video yelling, "I can't breathe!" 11 times as police put him in a chokehold, trying to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. 

Those words became Erica's rallying cry, as she often marched in Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and against police brutality. 

Erica was placed into a medically induced coma after having a heart attack, and then pronounced dead at the hospital. Doctors said Erica had an enlarged heart. 

"For her, it was her daddy that would never come back, and I think that caused absolute and unequivocally the pain that broke her heart and her condition," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was at the funeral. 

The funeral service wasn't entirely smooth: a scuffle broke out when a family member was not allowed into the church. Hawk Newsome, head of the New York chapter of Black Lives Matter, said Eric Garner's mother -- Erica's grandmother -- could not get in because of "political nastiness." 

"They didn't even put her in the obituary, that's what started this," said Tanesha Grant of Harlem, who witnessed the scuffle at what should have been a somber event. 

Sharpton explained that some family was asked not to come. 

"Despite that, you had a full funeral honoring her," he said. 

Asthma also affected Erica's father. While the medical examiner determined Eric Garner's death to be a result of neck compression from the police chokehold, the autopsy report cited asthma, obesity and heart disease as contributing factors. Eric Garner's death was ruled a homicide.

A grand jury opted not to indict the officer seen on video administering the chokehold on Eric Garner, a tactic prohibited under NYPD rules, prompting massive protests in New York City and around the country.

The city later agreed to pay a $6 million civil settlement.

Sharpton runs the National Action Network and hosts PoliticsNation on MSNBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of this site.

CORRECTION (Jan. 9, 2018, 10:11 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article referenced a cellphone video capturing a scuffle related to the funeral. That video showed an encounter between police and protesters unrelated to the scuffle at Erica Garner's funeral.

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