The nine women who gathered Tuesday on stage at the Wells Fargo Center at the Democratic National Convention may not be household names to some, but the names of their children are.
Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Oscar Grant, Blair Holt, Hadiya Pendleton and Dontre Hamilton were all Black teens and adults either killed at the hands of police, or as a result of gun violence.
The women, calling themselves Mothers of the Movement, gathered on the stage of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Tuesday night to endorse Hillary Clinton for president, because they believe she has a plan to help fix the relationship between police and the community and improve the country’s gun laws.
“You don’t stop being a parent when your child dies. I am still Jordan Davis’s mother. His life ended the day he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t,” said Lucia McBath. “Hillary Clinton isn’t afraid to say black lives matter. She isn’t afraid to sit at a table with grieving mothers and bear the full force of our anguish. She doesn’t build walls around her heart.”
Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said standing on the stage was not a choice she would have made.
“I am an unwilling participant in this movement. I would not have signed up for this. None of us would have,” she said.
“Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother. She has the courage to lead the fight for common-sense gun legislation. And she has a plan to repair the divide that so often exists between law enforcement and the communities they serve. This isn’t about being politically correct. It’s about protecting our children,” Fulton added.
The mothers made the case that Clinton has a plan to lead the nation toward “restoration and change,” said Bland’s mother Geneva Reed-Veal.
“I’m here with Hillary Clinton because she is a leader and a mother who will say our children’s names. Hillary knows that when a young black life is cut short, it’s not just a personal loss. It is a national loss. It is a loss that diminishes all of us,” Reed-Veal added.
It was one of the most moving moments of the convention so far because of the courage and strength displayed by these women. And Clinton has addressed the issue on the campaign trail, calling for an end to the era of mass incarceration ushered in by policies and legislation supported by Bill Clinton when he was president.
Clinton has also called for solutions such as bringing police and community together to develop national guidelines on the use of force, spending $1 billion to fund implicit bias training for officers, strengthening legislation to outlaw racial profiling, and helping the U.S. Justice Department’s unit that monitors civil rights violations.
But some have said it is not enough.
Standing on the stage Tuesday night – but not speaking – was Garner’s mother Gwen Carr.
Just a day before her appearance at the convention, she wrote a scathing opinion piece in The New York Daily News calling for an end to “training” and “community policing rhetoric” from politicians and a plan to hold police officers more accountable.
A grand jury declined to indict the officers involved in Garner’s death, and after two years, the Justice Department has not decided if it will prosecute.
“Public officials must ensure officers are consistently, swiftly and meaningfully held accountable for abuses, brutality and misconduct by their departments. Real change will come from solutions to these systemic failures in accountability that allows the gross misconduct to continue,” Carr wrote.
The appointment of a special prosecutor in New York to examine police killings of civilians is the type of step necessary to prevent what happened to her son, Carr said.
“The problem of political resistance is one we face around the nation. Public officials are failing to advance real accountability that can provide systemic change, and in too many cases are undermining efforts to achieve it. Our lives must no longer be sacrificed for politics. Government officials in New York City, Washington and all across the country need to hear this message of accountability loud and clear,” she added.
Clinton also faced criticism from Black Lives Matter protesters in Philadelphia, USA Today reported.
“Hillary Clinton has had a perfect opportunity in the last two or three weeks to say, ‘Hey, Black Lives Matter to me, and here is my platform,'” New York activist Hawk Newsome told the paper. “She’s done nothing more that make some vague statements and tweets.”
Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, said the fact that Mothers of the Movement spoke at the convention during primetime hours is significant.
“It made a statement. It shows where Democrats and her campaign stand,” Falcón said. “It sets up a contrast from Republicans.”
Whereas Trump might bring a Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie on as attorney general, Clinton is signaling that her Justice Department will follow a path similar to one laid out by President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The assumption is that she will follow up on the issue of police involved killings and gun violence on a federal level, whereas Trump will say these are state issues,” added Falcón.
But there is still uncertainty.
“She’s going to have to start laying some of this out in concrete terms,” Falcón said. “People want to see how far she will go to follow up on the rhetoric.”
Clinton also has to bring her African-American and Latino coalitions together to address the issue of police killings. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reported last year that Latinos are killed by police at a rate that is 30 percent above average and almost twice that of non-Latino Whites. African-Americans are killed by police at 2.8 times the rate of non-Latino Whites.
“The issue is being defined in black and white terms. Clinton has to understand there is a broader constituency around these concerns,” Falcón said. “It makes sense to keep the pressure up on this issue.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty