Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called for unity and action to bridge the divide between minority communities and those who police them as she visited Charlotte, the North Carolina city rocked by riots following the recent killing of a black man by a police officer.
"There are some out there who see this as a moment to fan the flames of resentment and division, who want to exploit peoples’ fears even though it means tearing our nation even further apart," Clinton said on Sunday. "They say that all of our problems would be solves simply by more law and order as if the systemic racism plaguing our country doesn’t exist.”
She didn't mention her opponent, Republican Donald Trump, as she spoke at Little Rock AME Zion Church, a historically black congregation blocks from the epicenter of protests following the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, 43, on Sept. 20. Trump has called for a focus on law and order.
"It has been 12 days since Mr. Scott was shot and killed. Twelve days since his wife, Rakeyia Scott, watched her husband die, and seven children lost their father,"said Clinton. "We don't yet know all the details about the shooting, but we do know this community and this family is in pain."
Clinton advocated for both black and blue, arguing that safe neighborhoods and freedom for black Americans are not mutually exclusive.
"Of course we need safe neighborhoods, no one is against that. Of course we need communities that are free from the epidemic of gun violence. Of course we need that," she said. "But we also need justice and dignity and equality. And we can have both. This is not an either/or question for America. I want us to commit ourselves to this common vision."
Clinton has made criminal justice and civil rights issues a core of her campaign. Her first policy speech as a presidential candidate, in April 2015, came in the aftermath of the killing of Freddie Gray, 25, in Baltimore as she called for the rebalancing of a criminal justice system that she said has become misaligned. Since then, she's spoken out after several major clashes between police and the communities they serve, some that have left civilians dead and others, as in Dallas and Baton Rouge, in which police died.
“It’s been a hard year, hasn’t it?" Clinton asked church-goers. "Think about how many times President Obama has had to console our nation about another senseless tragedy, another shattered family, another distressed community.”
Clinton was joined by Representative Alma Adams, a North Carolina Democrat, and Zianna Oliphant, a 9-year-old who spoke this week to the Charlotte City Council about her fears as a young African-American. Clinton said that reading Oliphant's words brought tears to her eyes and brought into focus the challenges at hand. "Our entire country should take a moment to really look at what’s going on here and across America. To imagine what see on the news and what we hear about, imagine it through our children's eyes," she said.
"Every child deserves the same sense of security, every child deserves the same hope. They should not be facing fear. They should be learning and growing," said Clinton, who emphasized her role as grandmother to daughter Chelsea's two children.
"Like every grandmother I worry about the safety and security. But my worries are not the same as black grandmothers who have different and deeper fears about the world that their grandchildren face," she said.
Clinton postponed a planned Sept. 25 visit to Charlotte after mayor, Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, said during that Clinton and Trump, who had planned to be in the city on Sept. 27, should wait to visit until the city was “back to more of a state of normalcy.”
On Sept. 23, Scott’s wife released her cell phone video of the incident, which includes audio of her shouting “don’t shoot him” and saying that he didn’t have a gun. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released some of its video footage last week and said Friday that it will release all its dashboard and body camera footage after the Scott family views it in the coming days.
After the fatal shootings of Scott and another black man, Terence Crutcher, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in September Clinton said the situation was “unbearable and it needs to become intolerable."
Clinton was last in Charlotte in early September for a fundraiser and a rally at historically black Johnson C. Smith University. North Carolina is key battleground for Clinton and Trump, and recent polls indicate the contest is essentially a tie.