Erica Garner believes that deep down, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is a protester just like her.
In a powerful new commercial released yesterday, Garner made her case for why Sanders is the only presidential candidate who takes police brutality and accountability seriously, in a way that carries on the traditions of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whom he once marched alongside.
"There's no other person out there speaking about this. People are dying. This is real. This is not TV," she says over a dramatic piano track and gritty shots of New York City. "We need a president that's gonna talk about it."
Garner is the daughter of Eric Garner, who famously died after a New York Police Department officer placed him in a banned chokehold. She is part of a group of people whose endorsements have become highly coveted as the presidential primary moves to states with higher portions of minority voters: family members and attorneys of high-profile victims of police brutality and gun violence.
But Garner's endorsement is contradicted within her own family. Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother, has come out in favor of Hillary Clinton, along with the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and others. Many of them are campaigning actively in South Carolina for Clinton.
In an effort to keep track of which candidates the other people in Garner's shoes are supporting, we decided to start tracking it. Below is a short breakdown of who is supporting who—and what reasons they publicly give for their decisions.
Eric Garner's mother Gwen Carr: Hillary Clinton
Unlike her granddaughter Erica, Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, went on the record endorsing Hillary Clinton in a campaign email sent late last month.
"Along with too many others, Eric's death has forced our country to confront the effects of police brutality. We've got to do something about the violence in our communities — especially gun violence — and the racial and economic injustice that's connected to it," Carr wrote.
"I think all of us need to make the time to be involved in this election. With all the violence and injustice that's upon us today, we need a candidate who can move us forward — that's Hillary," she concluded.
Trayvon Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton: Hillary Clinton
It was Martin's death at the hands of community watch member George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fl., which sparked the Black Lives Matter organization and movement into existence. When Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges, it marked the beginning of a renewed national conversation about race and the justice system.
In an op-ed published on CNN.com, Fulton described being thoroughly impressed with Clinton over the time the two spent together last year. She connected with the candidate not only politically, she wrote, but as a fellow mother.
“She knew all the statistics. But like so many, I’ve long since grown numb to the numbers,” she wrote. “So instead, we talked about Trayvon and other families who have lost a loved one to gun violence. We talked about all of the wishes and hopes we had for their lives. And knowing we can never get them back, we discussed how to prevent more moms from losing their sons to gun violence.”
Clinton sees what Fulton sees, she said: "A criminal justice system that is not just," and that is worth fighting to change.
“I know Clinton is tough enough to wage this fight. I’ve seen her do it for years,” she concluded.
Trayvon Martin's lawyers: One for Bernie, one for Hillary
In an exclusive interview with Fusion, attorney Natalie Jackson explained by she chose to endorse Bernie Sanders. When we asked her for her 30-second pitch about why she endorses him, this is what she said:
One of the things that people get wrong is that he is the idealist or the dreamer. But what we’ve been sold by all of these politicians so far are dreams and ideas; Bernie actually has a solid plan that says, “Listen: True American democracy is the empowerment of the average working class person; not corporate business interests or the privileged top 1% (which the majority of Black America has never been a part of). College should be free for students, universal health care should be available to everyone, corporate money shouldn’t rule governmental action, and government should focus on things that will help everyone not the few.” I don’t think he’s the dreamer. We’ve been sold status quo dreams all of these years and some of us can’t recognize the real from the dream anymore. Bernie Sanders is real, and he’s discussing the things that we need. Especially black people.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney who has also represented Martin's family, and who later represented the family of Michael Brown in Missouri, has plans to publicly endorse Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, prior to that state's primary election.
“Crump will talk to South Carolina voters about what’s at stake in this election and Hillary Clinton’s strong record of fighting for families,” the Clinton campaign told Politico in a statement. “He will highlight how Clinton is the only one who will stand up to the gun lobby, has a plan to reform our criminal justice system, and understands the issues that keep families up at night."
Crump has not yet commented on the endorsement.
Sandra Bland's mother Geneva Reed-Veal: Hillary Clinton
The death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell took the nation by storm, after it had already been soaked to the bone by recent foul weather. All parts of the incident raised serious questions, from the officer who pulled her over saying "I'm going to light you up" with a Taser, to her asking the officer 14 times why she's being arrested and still getting no response, to the overall scandal of pretrial detention.
When Bland was found hanged in her cell three days after being arrested for assaulting a public servant, the nation erupted in outrage with every development. After all, she was literally driving on her way to start a new career at a Texas university. (Last month, the officer who pulled her over was indicted on a perjury charge related to the incident. Even still, he could avoid any jail time.)
Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, is expected to make an appearance in support of Hillary Clinton at a "voter mobilization stop" in Chicago next week, reported The Associated Press. Other information about her involvement in the campaign has not yet been reported.
Over the summer, when the story was unfolding, Clinton called Bland's death "extremely disturbing."
Jordan Davis' mother Lucia McBath: Hillary Clinton
Shortly after the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida sparked outrage, the senseless death of Jordan Davis, another Florida teen, raised suspicions that it would play out the same way.
Davis and three friends were at a gas station in Jacksonville in 2012, when a white man named Michael Dunn asked them to turn it down. When they declined, Dunn shot at the car 10 times, killing Davis instantly. He claimed a "Stand Your Ground" defense, stating that he thought his life was in danger when he pulled out his firearm.
Dunn was found guilty of first degree murder in 2014.
Still, the case remains as a sharp reminder of how apparent racial biases can needlessly turn deadly.
"Hillary has detailed plans to build on President Obama’s executive actions, closing loopholes that still allow dangerous people to buy firearms at gun shows and on the Internet," she wrote. "Back when she was first lady, Hillary rallied the nation to pass the Brady Bill, a law that established federal background checks on many gun sales."
That cannot be said of Bernie Sanders, she wrote: "He voted against the Brady Bill five times."
Walter Scott's family attorney: First Hillary, then Bernie
This was the gamechanger. When disturbing video of North Charleston Sc. officer Michael T. Slager shooting Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man in the back as he was running away was released to the public, there was no justification for the action. The video showed it all. The officer lied in his police report.
A swift indictment followed. The video, which made the case, was shot by a bystander who happened to be standing nearby. The crucial evidence has served as a vindication for activists, who have long claimed that police routinely lie in police reports during fatal encounters. This case could have been different, but it wasn't. Slager was caught red-handed.
Initially, State Representative Justin T. Bamberg of South Carolina, the attorney who represented the Scott family, said that he endorsed Hillary Clinton. But then last month, he made the switch to Bernie Sanders, saying Clinton represents the establishment that the Democratic Party needs to break away from.
“Hillary Clinton is more a representation of the status quo when I think about politics or about what it means to be a Democrat,” he told the New York Times. "Bernie Sanders on the other hand is bold. He doesn’t think like everyone else. He is not afraid to call things as they are.”
Bamberg told the paper that his decision to switch sides came after the two held a 20-minute conversation about the shooting of Scott, on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
"What I got from him was not a presidential candidate talking to a state representative, or an old white man talking to a young black guy,” he said. “What I got from him was a man talking to a man about things that they are passionate about, and that was the tipping point for me.”
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.