PHILADELPHIA — Two Florida mothers who lost sons to gunfire in high-profile incidents tapped their pain Tuesday to tell the Democratic National Convention why they support Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.
On a night otherwise marred by the walkout of delegates loyal to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders who lost the nomination in a heated battle with Clinton, a former secretary of state, the women’s remarks provided a poignant moment filled with a different kind of emotion.
Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of a Texas woman who died in jail after a series of events that began with a traffic stop, also addressed the convention during part of the program dubbed “Mothers of the Movement.”
The women spoke amid ongoing national conversations about gun control and the use of lethal force by police officers. The “Black Lives Matter” movement has pushed the issue of police brutality to the forefront of the election season, even as some conservatives have contended that it is encouraging vigilante attacks on law enforcement.
Perhaps mindful of that, the speakers chosen by the Clinton campaign made it clear that their activism was not in opposition to policing itself.
“The majority of police officers are good people doing a good job,” said Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot to death in 2012 during a dispute about loud music in the parking lot of a Jacksonville convenience store.
Their comments served two purposes. On one hand, they highlighted a cause important to black voters, one of Clinton’s most loyal constituencies during her battle with Sanders and a group likely to vote for her by massive margins in the fall.
But by talking about their interactions with Clinton, the mothers also humanized a woman who would be perhaps the most unpopular major-party nominee in American history were it not for her Republican opponent, real estate mogul Donald Trump.
“Hillary Clinton isn’t afraid to say that black lives matter,” McBath said. “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, mother of Trayvon Martin, also took implicit aim at Trump’s claim that “political correctness” was weakening the country.
The 17-year-old Martin was walking through a gated community in Sanford in 2012 when he was pursued by a neighborhood-watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who fatally shot the teen. Zimmerman said Martin attacked him first and was acquitted in the death, sparking a controversy about Florida’s self-defense laws.
“This isn’t about being politically correct,” Fulton said.
The campaign also relied on a law-enforcement official, Pittsburgh Chief of Police Cameron McLay, to stress its view that police safety and changes to the system need not be at odds.
“We can respect and support our police officers while at the same time pushing for these important criminal justice reforms,” McLay said.