Clinton's ideas on race draw applause, protest

2015-10-31 22:40
Hillary Clinton (AP)

Hillary Clinton (AP)

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North Charleston - Hillary Clinton is drawing ovations and protesters while highlighting criminal justice and economic policies that the Democratic presidential candidate says are intended to treat blacks more fairly.

At a dinner hosted by the NAACP civil rights group on Friday, she watched silently as relatives of the nine people killed in June by a white gunman during a Bible study a historic black church in Charleston took part in a memorial.

Afterward, to rounds of applause, Clinton said, "People in this room ... have shown grace and resilience." Charleston, she said, has inspired Americans who often "don't know what to do about that kind of hate and violence stalking our land".

Clinton said the church slayings and the April killing of Walter Scott, a black man shot by a North Charleston police officer who has since been fired and charged with murder, were part of a trend. "The last few years have shone a bright light on the systemic effects of racism and injustice," she said.

The answers, she said, include overhauling the criminal justice system, tightening gun regulations and expanding economic and educational opportunities in communities held back by generations of institutionalised racism.

Clinton delivered a similar message earlier on Friday in Georgia. But the otherwise friendly audience at Atlanta Clark University, a historically black campus, included several protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest movement emerged in response to recent killings of unarmed blacks by police in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere.

They sang and chanted for nearly 12 minutes several feet from the podium as Clinton tried to shout over them. John Lewis, a hero in the civil rights movement, urged them to stop, as did the musician Usher.

The group - fewer than 10 - eventually left the college gymnasium only after the crowd of more than 2 000, most of them young African-Americans, chanted, "Let her talk!"

"I'm sorry they didn't listen, because some of what they demanded I am offering and intend to fight for as president," Clinton said.

The Georgia-South Carolina campaign swing, set to continue on Saturday in Charleston, is part of Clinton's emphasis on Southern states that dominate the early weeks of the presidential nominating calendar.

South Carolina holds its Democratic primary February 27, after Iowa and New Hampshire begin the process a few weeks earlier. Georgia is one of almost a dozen states from Virginia to Texas that follow in March.

African-Americans could make up a majority of the Democratic electorate, or close to it, in several of those states, a potential boon for Clinton, given that her closest rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has struggled to attract support from black voters.

Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley each have pitched criminal justice overhauls.

The issue resonates among traditional civil rights organisations and the younger activists of Black Lives Matter, though that movement's leaders say they aren't interested in participating in conventional politics by endorsing Clinton or anyone else.

Clinton wants to eliminate sentencing disparities between crack cocaine crimes and those that involve powder cocaine. The changes would build on a 2010 Act of Congress that narrowed the disparity between crack crimes - concentrated among minorities - and powder crimes, which are more likely to involve whites. Clinton's plan would make the change retroactive.

She proposed a legal ban on racial profiling by police. Clinton hasn't detailed how her idea would go beyond existing law, but her campaign cited previous congressional proposals that would make it easier for alleged profiling victims to recover damages from government agencies in civil court.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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