Erica Garner has remained active in the fight against injustice since losing her father, who died from injuries sustained after he was put in a chokehold by NYPD officers during an arrest for selling cigarettes in July of 2014. She was among those in attendance on Thursday evening when ABC aired a taping of a town hall meeting with President Obama to address the recent killings of Black men by law enforcement, as well as the fatal shooting of Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest against police brutality in the aftermath of the killings. Shortly after the town hall aired, Erica revealed on social media that she’d walked out during the taping after she says ABC producers reassured her she’d get the chance to ask President Obama direct questions during the discussion, but later ignored her questions when the time came. “ABC is using black lives as a rating and to get paid,” Erica told HuffPost in a statement. “They guaranteed me that I would be asking the president direct questions about what’s going on. I was lied to.”
Erica did get the chance to speak with President Obama briefly backstage after voicing her displeasure with the way things were handled, but she maintains her belief that she was used by ABC to exploit Black pain and grief. In a video provided exclusively to Huffington Post, President Obama gave a pointed response to Erica’s question about the federal investigation into her father’s death and what’s being done on the legislative end to improve policing policies. “I promise you people are hearing it and I wouldn’t be spending all this time here if I wasn’t concerned about it,” Obama said to Erica in the video. “But I have to make sure that we don’t get in a situation that there’s a perception that, in any way, these kinds of investigations are being influenced. I just wanted to say that respectfully, but I am sorry for your loss.” Erica also shared that she initially had plans to stay home and prepare for the upcoming anniversary of her father’s death on Sunday, but rearranged her plans to attend the town hall at ABC’s request. “Not once did they mention Eric Garner or acknowledge the family,” she said. “I say we rise up and say enough is enough.”
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors echoed Erica’s sentiments, describing the town hall as “one of the worst experiences you could’ve put families [of police brutality victims] through,” she said. “It was all about apologizing about the cops, it was just a mess … It felt like a love-fest for cops. The entire show was about respectability politics. It was so staged and so curated.”
ABC has yet to issue a statement on Erica’s claims or address any of the public backlash following the town hall meeting.
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