Hillary Clinton addresses Trump during town hall event in Cleveland
March 12, 2016 8:07 PM
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall meeting at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Saturday, March 12, 2016.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall meeting at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church on March 12, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
By Vanessa McCray / Block News Alliance
CLEVELAND – Hillary Clinton denounced what she described as Donald Trump’s “ugly, divisive” talk and outlined her plans to lift people from poverty and protect against gun and police violence during a Cleveland church visit today focused squarely on black voters.
A diverse audience of about 900 people that packed the wooden pews rose to their feet to welcome Mrs. Clinton to the town hall event just days before Ohio’s primary.
Before launching into a speech and answering questions about issues that affect African-Americans, Mrs. Clinton directly addressed Friday’s cancellation of a rally in Chicago for Mr. Trump. The Republican presidential front-runner’s campaign events have been scarred with altercations involving protesters, among other problems.
“The ugly, divisive rhetoric from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is not only wrong but dangerous,” she said. “That is not leadership. That is political arson.”
She called for Americans to stand together to resist those who seek to divide the country.
“If you see bigotry oppose it. If you see violence condemn it. If you see a bully stand up to him,” she said, moments before a heckler interrupted her speech.
The Community Coalition Concerned for Black Life, a group of clergy, academic, and civil rights leaders, invited presidential candidates to the town hall at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, visited last week.
As president, Mrs. Clinton said she would work to support small businesses — particularly those owned by women and minorities — and set aside funds to invest in historically black colleges.
Race still plays a significant role in who gets ahead, she said.
“Something is very wrong when black kids get arrested for petty crimes but white kids get off for doing exactly the same thing,” she said, drawing big cheers.
Policing practices have been a key concern on the national stage, and it's an issue that resonates strongly in Cleveland. It was here in 2014 when a white police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice, a black 12-year-old who was playing with what turned out to be a pellet gun. A grand jury declined to indict the officer.
“He should be alive today,” Mrs. Clinton said, told the Cleveland crowd.
She then introduced a host of mothers who lost children to violence, including at the hands of police officers. Among the women who joined Mrs. Clinton were Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, and Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner.
In 2012, Trayvon was 17 when he fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Fla. Mr. Garner, 43, died after 2014 encounter with police, yelling ”I can’t breathe” after a white police officer wraps his arm around Garner’s neck.
“They are calling on all of us, they are inspiring us to stand up for real criminal justice reform to hold police accountable and prevent other young people from facing their death,” Mrs. Clinton said.
She promised to take on the gun lobby to bring about reforms, such as comprehensive background checks.
Mrs. Clinton also called for federal dollars to train local police departments on how to de-escalate violent situations. Heavy-duty equipment, such as tanks, which have militarized police forces, need to be pulled back or even taken back, she said.
After the event, Amelia Jenkins, a member of the church for 52 years who lives in Maple Heights, Ohio, said she appreciated Mrs. Clinton’s support of historically black colleges as well as her frank talk on other issues.
“The other thing I was impressed by was her focusing on the police killing so many black youngsters and getting away with it. It’s all over the country. It’s just unbelievable,” she said, calling Tamir Rice’s death a “sore in our hearts.”
Among those waiting to hear Mrs. Clinton was Jannie Blunt of Cleveland, who wore a pin with a picture of the former secretary of state and carried a copy of her autobiography, Living History. Mrs. Clinton signed the volume when she visited Cleveland during her 2008 presidential campaign.
“I brought it back hoping that she would sign it again,” Ms. Blunt said, of the book.
The registered Democrat supports Mrs. Clinton because of her knowledge of the presidential post and “adherence to Democratic values.” The fact that she would be the first woman president doesn't hurt.
“Whether Clinton or Sanders wins I will be happy. I would prefer Clinton because I think Sanders will have a much harder time working with a Republican Congress,” Ms. Blunt said. “She's a little bit more middle of the road, which in a country like this we need to be able to give and take.”
Ms. Blunt doesn't want another “eight years of fighting the way we fought for Obamacare,” also known as the Affordable Care Act.
Phillip Brown and his mother, Vera Brown, both of Cleveland, were first in line waiting to enter the church and see the candidate they support. Mr. Brown thinks Mrs. Clinton will act as a “bridge” to solve issues of injustice involving police and also represent women and minorities.
Stephanie Eafford of Cleveland brought her nine-year-old daughter Angelina Lynch to the town hall.
“It was important to her; she wanted to come out and see Hillary Clinton. She's been watching her every day,” Ms. Eafford said, who said she's still deciding who she will vote for.
The Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Contact Vanessa McCray at: email@example.com or 410-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.
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