The most important thing Americans, and especially minorities, can do for their communities is vote, according to four African-American mothers who share the loss of children to gun violence and police incidents.
The mothers of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Dontre Hamilton and Jordan Davis appeared at a Breaking Down Barriers forum Sunday at St. Peter’s AME Church in North Charleston. The event was launched by Hillary Clinton’s S.C. campaign, and the women spoke for a little over an hour about gun violence, police reform and their reasons for endorsing the presidential candidate.
The event was poorly attended and a campaign spokeswoman attributed it to not being able to spread the word in the community as well as they would have liked.
The four women who told their stories at the forum were thrust into the spotlight after the high-profile deaths of a child each. They chose to tour across the state in hopes of making a difference for someone else.
“A lot of people think that (Clinton’s) exploiting us by bringing us together like this,” said Garner’s mother, Gwenn Carr. “But if there’s another child out there that can be saved, I will do this for the rest of my life.”
Garner died on July 17, 2014 after a New York City police officer put him in a fatal chokehold. A grand jury declined to indict the officer. Carr says it was police brutality that killed her son and is an advocate for reform, including the use of body cameras and having any officer-related death investigated by an attorney general.
Carr said Clinton spoke one-on-one to each of the mothers and asked them what they would like to see happen if she became president. All four women said Clinton’s “personal touch,” was more than all of them received from more-expected sources.
Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in a jail cell July 13 in Texas, said she has received multiple personal letters and invitations to events from Clinton about her daughter’s case. A coroner ruled Bland’s death a suicide but protestors disputed it and her initial arrest, alleging racial violence.
“(We received) repeated gestures of ‘We’re thinking about you; I’m thinking about you; We’re there,’” Reed-Veal said of Clinton. “My child is not just another person in an orange jumpsuit.”
Lucy McBath pointed out Clinton’s plans to expand firearm background checks and close what’s become known as the Charleston loophole, in which admitted gunman Dylann Roof purchased a handgun when he shouldn’t have been able to after the background check waiting period had expired.
Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is accused of killing nine African-American parishioners at Emanuel AME Church during a Bible study on June 17.
McBath’s son, Davis, a 17-year-old high school student, was fatally shot at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, by Michael David Dunn, 45 at the time, after an argument about loud music. She said Clinton’s track record when it comes to gun reform stands on it’s own.
All the women agreed that regardless of who voters choose, the key was to vote — not just for a president, but also in state and local elections.
“We’ve got to stand, we don’t have a choice,” said Maria Hamilton. “Our country is being destroyed by racism, bigotry and hate.”
Her son was shot April 30, 2014, by a white police officer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Clinton is trying to boost her support among minority voters ahead of the state’s democratic primary Saturday, according to the Associated Press. African-Americans and Latino voters make up a sizable part of the electorate.
In “Stand,” a second Clinton ad that began airing across South Carolina this weekend, Actor Morgan Freeman states that Clinton has “always stood with us” — meaning families who lost loved ones to gun violence or while in police custody.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.