'Mothers of the Movement' makes case for Hillary Clinton

Story highlights

  • Mothers of victims from police altercations say Hillary Clinton's record speaks for itself
  • Eric Garner's mother said Clinton was first candidate to reach out

Washington (CNN)Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, on Tuesday described watching her daughter being "lowered into the ground in a coffin" at the Democratic National Convention.

It was a powerful moment in the DNC program, and came as other speakers, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, focused on the need for policing reforms.
Flanked by fellow mothers in the nine-woman "Mothers of the Movement" -- whose unarmed African-American children have been killed by law enforcement or due to gun violence -- spoke Tuesday night, making their case for Hillary Clinton as a reformer.
    "She was my fourth of five daughters, and she was gone," Reed-Veal said of her daughter, who was found dead in a jail cell after being arrested for a minor traffic violation.
    "No, no -- not on administrative leave, but on permanent leave from this earth," she said. "Found hanging in a jail cell after an unlawful traffic stop and an unlawful arrest."
    She added that "six other women have died in custody that same month," and listed the names of those women.
    Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, who was 17 when he was shot and killed in a car after arguing with a man about the volume of his music, said she wants to see Clinton elected and police reforms enacted "so that this group of heartbroken mothers stops growing."
    Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed when he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, called herself an "unwilling participant in this movement."
    "I would not have signed up for this," she said. "I'm here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who's in heaven."
    She touted Clinton's support for gun reforms and plans to bridge gaps between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
    "This isn't about being politically correct," she said. "This is about saving our children. That's why we're here, tonight, with Hillary Clinton."
    The group has been among Clinton's top surrogates and supporters. The former secretary of state has met personally with the group and its individual members.
    After Holder, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay also appeared. He argued it's possible to implement criminal justice reforms while also respecting police officers.
    "We can support our police officers while at the same time making criminal justice reforms," he said. "We can do both and we will do both."
    Convention organizers faced complaints that police -- also victims of a rash of shootings in recent months -- weren't more of a focus. "Blue Lives Matter" was a common refrain at the Republican National Convention last week in Cleveland in the wake of tragic killings of police officers.
    "I think this was a missed opportunity," said David Axelrod, a former top aide to President Barack Obama and a CNN senior political commentator.
    "It wasn't just police shootings up there," he said. "But the families of police officers grieve for their losses as well, and it would have been a healing moment to get everyone on the same stage to say we have to stop the violence."
    Earlier in the day, McBath praised Clinton's commitment to the cause.
    "She's been dealing with these kind of systematic issues all along, so her records speak for itself. So she didn't just join the game. She's been doing the work already. She's been in the trenches, so she understands dynamically the way to move forward to be able to change this," she said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day."
    The 17-year-old Davis was killed after Michael Dunn shot into an SUV that held Davis and his friends at a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station following an argument over loud music from the teens' vehicle.
    The "Mothers of the Movement" also includes the mothers of Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and other men and women who died due to gun violence, while in police custody or as a result of police actions.
    Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, said Clinton was the first presidential candidate to reach out to the mothers of these victims. Garner died following a chokehold from police attempting to arrest him for allegedly illegally selling cigarettes.
    "She was the first candidate that ever reached out to these mothers," Carr told CNN's Alisyn Camerota. "She was genuinely concerned about our pain and about what we were going through."
    Carr said the former secretary of state met privately with about a dozen mothers who have lost their children to gun violence.
    "She listened to our stories," Carr said. "She listens with compassion. She took notes, not her cabinet, not her press people. She didn't even have press with her."
    Carr said Clinton understands that community policing is one of the solutions to problems and tensions between African-American communities and law enforcement.
    "You should always know the people you are policing. If you form a relationship, there would be less violence," she said. "We have to get more respect, more consciousness in the neighborhood."