In an effort to demonstrate that black lives do matter, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton met with a group of women whose African-American sons died in gun shootings. The former First Lady and Secretary of State also met with members of #BlackLivesMatter this summer.
On the campaign trail to Iowa on Monday, Clinton met in Chicago with the mothers of Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin. The 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon sparked a national protest and marked the beginning of a recent wave of high profile police shootings involving unarmed black males.
Those protests have evolved into the Black Lives Matter movement, a coalition of organizations that look to hold politicians accountable for the killings of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
The shootings have also prompted race riots, investigations by the Dept. of Justice, and led to equipping police departments with body cameras.
Clinton outlined her criminal justice and gun control proposals while sharing the womens’ “heartbreaking stories.” While Republicans focus on tax reform and ending Obamacare, racial issues have risen to the top of the Democratic primary agenda.
On Friday, Clinton was repeatedly disrupted by protestors during a speech in Atlanta.
"It's important to say out loud what I am saying because I believe all Americans, especially those of us with privilege and power have a responsibility to face these facts and we need to do a better job not assuming that our experiences are everyone else's," Clinton said. "And we need all of us to try walking into one another's shoes."
Clinton pledged earlier this year to close background check loopholes and allow victims to sue gun manufacturers.
"There is something profoundly wrong," Clinton said in April during her first speech as a candidate, “when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.”
Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, described the meeting with Clinton as "powerful" and "productive."
Clinton tweeted about the meeting afterward, saying that she was "grateful to spend time today with mothers who have lost a child to violence and turned their grief into a national call to action."
Lesley McSpadden, Brown's mother, said Clinton heard what the group had to say and that they listened to her, too.
"I look forward to what is underway," she said.
"She is a mother and she is a woman and I felt she understood where we were coming from," said Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice. "It doesn't matter what color we are, I felt that she really understands where we are coming from."
Martin was the 17-year-old Floridian who was killed in 2012 by former neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman's acquittal sparked protests across the country. Davis was a 17-year-old African-American high school student killed in a 2014 shooting that started with a complaint about loud music. Brown was the 18-year-old African-American killed in 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. And Rice was the 12-year-old African-American killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio.
According to the women, Clinton did not make any explicit promises to them, but did pledge to stay engaged in their causes and work on criminal justice reform. All of the women described the meeting as productive and said Clinton appeared earnest and trustworthy.