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US elections 2016

Erica Garner: 'These cops are still killing us'

In the latest commercial for Bernie Sanders, Erica Garner is the heroine. She embodies a generation of young African-Americans who are disappointed with Barack Obama's policy. Garner talked to DW about her expectations.

Eric Garner died on July 17, 2014, as a direct result of a prohibited chokehold applied by a white New York City police officer who alleged that the unarmed 43-year-old was selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island. "I can't breathe" were Garner's last words, which became the battle cry of a movement protesting police brutality against black people. His daughter Erica Garner was a spokeswoman of these protests. Now she is campaigning for the presidential candidate she also considers a "real protester": Bernie Sanders.

DW: The Clintons always enjoyed strong support from the African-American community. Last week the Congressional Black Caucus declared its support for Hillary Clinton, too. There are many young African-Americans like you who would vote for Sanders over Clinton. Why is that?

Erica Garner: I don't want to represent anyone, I just want to tell the people to give Bernie a chance and look at his history. He has been standing with a lot of people when he was not popular. He stood with Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson, he marched in a civil rights movement, and also he stood with Black Lives Matter. And, when Black Lives Matter interrupted his speech (in August in Seattle), he immediately created a criminal justice platform. He is not telling us our issues or what specific policy we should stand behind. He just wanted to listen and stand with us.

Would you say there is a division among African-American voters, where the

older generation backs Hillary Clinton and the younger generation backs Bernie Sanders?

That's what I have been hearing a lot. I can't really say because I'm not sure about the numbers, who votes for whom. But actually a lot of young people are willing to give Bernie a chance. What young people need is consistency and Bernie Sanders has been consistent his whole life. Hillary Clinton has been all over the place, she has been flip-flopping, backtracking. We need someone who will be consistent and not turning his back on us when getting to work. He is not asking for our votes as a political move, he was already talking about us when he was not popular.

Which points of his agenda convinced you to support Sanders?

The fact that he was protesting with Martin Luther King and Jessie Jackson against inequality in the 1960s. My daughter is six years old and does not have a shot at college because of the debt and my 22-year-old brother in college right now, he has a full scholarship but this has to cover his food, too. He has to choose between paying $300 for his books or buying the groceries for the rest of the week.

What would he do to improve the lives of black people that Hillary Clinton wouldn't?

I think that he wouldn't turn his back on us and he would

elevate our voices.

Has Clinton disappointed African-Americans?

Something like that. Recently I just heard her talking about black lives but I think she's just saying that to get the vote.

Do you think she is not being honest when she talks about this issue?

No.

What do you think about the current administration? Are you happy about Barack Obama's achievements?

I'm not really sure if I am happy, but all I know is that I was a big advocate of Obama. I was told my whole life: You can be anything in this world and even president as black people. He made that possible. He gave us hope. That no matter what we go through we can do it. We can do it.

But now you want a change from the Obama policy?

Yes. I would like something to be changed because something has to be put into place to insure that our lives are not being taken by the same ones who are supposed to serve and protect us. The injustices that are going on - Obama is not doing anything.

These cops are still killing us and they are getting away with it.

That's one thing that Bernie Sanders stands for, he wants the police, politicians and the criminals on Wall Street to be accountable for their actions.

Do you think Bernie Sanders will achieve all his declared goals?

All I want is to give Bernie a chance. And also hold him accountable. If he does get into office, he is not going to be our savior, he is not going to change the world in one day, but I believe that he will put the foot into the door for black people.

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