Believe Black women the first time: Justice for Heaven and Ava

Alachua County cameras show a jailer escorting a pregnant Erica Thompson on Aug. 9. She later gave birth alone in a jail cell, and the child died at the hospital. [Alachua County Jail.]

BY KIARA LAURENT, Digital Communications Coordinator

Safe pregnancy is a reproductive right by virtue of being born. Each of us has the absolute right to adequate healthcare. Our pregnant mothers and siblings deserve the ability to bring up their children to thrive in dignity and safety.

On Aug. 9, 2021, Erica Thompson, who also goes by Heaven, gave birth to her daughter, Ava Nevaeh Daniels, in the Alachua County Jail. She was forced into labor while in a cage for 12 hours. Unfortunately, Ava was pronounced dead later that day at UF Health Shands Hospital.

This was no accident; the State has blood on its hands! The loss of baby Ava is immeasurable, and two Black lives were harmed by a system that proclaims they’re here to “serve and protect us.” We know better.

Those of us who are victimized by state violence are vulnerable and neglected. What happened to Heaven is nothing new. These are our sisters, mothers, daughters, and siblings. Babies should not be born in cages. Black women need to be believed the FIRST time.

As we care for Heaven, we fight for justice and do not intend to rest until these demands are fully met! We demand that Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson publicly release full and uncut infirmary and jail footage relating to Thompson from Aug. 9.

We demand that he give a public, formal apology and require the same from all the involved parties under his purview. We demand that he ends the contract that the Alachua County Jail currently has with Corizon Health.

Although none of our demands will bring back the life that they stole, nor heal the pain they caused, they are necessary steps for helping Thompson in her healing process and preventing a tragedy like this from ever happening again.

Kiara Laurent

Kiara Laurent is the digital communications coordinator of the Dream Defenders. She has led several actions in Gainesville and most recently spearheaded the fight for justice for Heaven and Ava.

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