Originally published in ANIMAL NEW YORK
Meet “Laura Lewis.” She’s the undercover “investigator” who was asking Eric Garner’s daughter leading questions about controversial civil rights figure Al Sharpton with a hidden camera in thelatest hit-job video by rightwing propagandist James O’Keefe. The story, splashed across the front page of the New York Post on Tuesday, uses highly selective interviews with Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner supporters to attempt to argue that Sharpton is “more sinner than saint.” Sharpton’s National Action Network has funded services for both causes.
The footage that includes a snippet of Erica Garner-Snipes was shot just outside the Staten Island Ferry Terminal on the evening of January 20th, where she and other activists have been gathering regularly. That particular Tuesday night was a little more emotional, as volunteers were there to rebuild the makeshift memorial for Eric Garner that had burned down the night before, on Martin Luther King Day.
Garner-Snipes and several protesters who were present during one of the filming sessions have all confirmed that the person asking the questions off-camera was Laura Lewis, which is presumably an alias. ANIMAL was first tipped-off on Lewis’s presence by New York-based activist Keegan Stephan, who recognized the woman’s voice and invasive questions from the video.
Lewis was actively using the Twitter handle @lauralewis78. (This morning, I emailed Lewis about the account and within minutes she protected the account. Luckily, I had screengrabbed a bunch of her identity-establishing tweets last night.) The account was parody-like in its adulation of the left, along with its obvious Photoshops of her with Al Sharpton and Bill Clinton. There was only a few tweets, one of them thanking Garner-Snipes the night after she secretly videotaped her:
“Yes, that is her in the photo,” wrote attorney and activist Esther Baldwin by email, referring to a screenshot of footage taken by fellow protester Janelle Ryan. “She approached me at the march that I did the day preceding the rebuilding of Eric Garner’s memorial under the pretext of helping her black boyfriend in Florida with some issues of police harassment/brutality. I explained to her at the march that the Dream Defenders were doing good work in Florida and that she should connect with them.”
Like her Twitter account, Lewis was a little over-the-top in her attempt to gain legitimacy. “When I got to Staten Island, almost immediately after greeting Erica, she pulls me aside to talk about the boyfriend again. I guess she didn’t think that I could believe that she had a black boyfriend (as if that is so far fetched), so she pulls up a picture of a black man on her phone to provide evidence of her relationship, which I thought was very odd. Then she begins to tell me that she’s so sick of the system and that Ramos and Liu got what they deserved. That’s when I ended the conversation and walked away from her.”
Baldwin provided emails written by Lewis that show how the latter tried to establish herself as a protester:
And in Ryan’s video (around the :32 mark), Lewis can be seen listening intently as Erica Garner-Snipes speaks into a megaphone.
But no one bought it. Esther “told me about the strange things [Lewis] was saying, and that she was making Esther uncomfortable,” Ryan recalls. Stephan, too, left with the impression that Lewis was either a “lunatic or a spy.”
In her last tweet, which has since been protected, Lewis reached out to Jahvaris Fulton, Trayvon’s older brother, and told him she was looking forward to the February 14th event he was organizing in Florida.