ST. LOUIS (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton is putting America’s struggle with race relations at the forefront of her presidential campaign, joining with church members near the epicenter of violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, as the nation grapples with the deadly shootings of nine black church members in South Carolina.
The leading Democratic presidential contender plans to attend a community meeting Tuesday at a church in Florissant, Missouri, a short drive from the site of the unrest in Ferguson after the August death of Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old, who was shot by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Brown’s death spurred outrage and led to a national “Black Lives Matter” movement demanding changes in how police deal with minorities.
Clinton largely avoided giving race relations a prominent role in her 2008 Democratic campaign against Barack Obama, who was vying to become the nation’s first black president at the time. Yet the former secretary of state has leaned into a number of issues closely watched by African-Americans this time, discussing the need to change the criminal justice system, improving access to voting and helping minority small business owners.
Clinton’s campaign hopes to mobilize black voters in large numbers in the 2016 election, building upon the coalition of minority, young and liberal voters who powered Obama’s two White House campaigns. The message has taken fresh urgency since last week’s church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, which happened shortly after Clinton campaigned in the city.
“This is a time for people in the public domain and the public square to speak what they believe, not give us political talk,” said Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, whose organization has called for the removal of public displays of the Confederate flag. “This tragedy is a time when we get to test their convictions.”