For three mothers whose children died after altercations with law enforcement officers, the losses remain devastating.
“To lose a child is one of the worst things that could happen to you,” said Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner.
Carr and two other bereaved mothers associated with the Black Lives Matter movement spoke to 150 people Monday afternoon at a Hillary Clinton campaign event at the N.C. Central University School of Law. They will be in Charlotte on Tuesday at Goodwill of the Southern Piedmont for a roundtable.
Carr urged the crowd to flood the polls and support Democrat Clinton for president because of her commitment to criminal justice reform.
“If you don’t vote, don’t complain,” Carr said.
“We have to support each other, and I think that’s what Hillary Clinton will do,” she added. “She sat down with us mothers, and she was concerned about our injustices. She asked what she could do about it. We told her all of our stories. She wants to implement them into law.”
Eric Garner died in 2014 after a New York Police Department officer put him in a chokehold. Garner repeated “I can’t breathe” several times. A grand jury decided not to indict the officer, igniting protests alleging police brutality.
Carr’s story of losing her son is similar to those of Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, and Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton.
Bland was arrested in Texas in July 2015 for a minor traffic violation and allegedly assaulting an officer. Days later, she was found hanged in a Texas jail cell. Though the county coroner classified Bland’s death a suicide, protesters disputed the cause of death and alleged that racially motivated violence had taken place during the traffic stop.
“We’re dealing with a broken criminal justice system,” Reed-Veal said. “It’s criminal what’s going on in the criminal justice system.”
Dontre Hamilton died in 2014 at Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee after an officer shot him 14 times. Though the officer was fired from the police department, no charges were filed.
“The way that the system was set up, the way it was created, there was no justice for black Americans,” Hamilton said. “We still are fighting for the right to have that justice.”
Fighting through tears, their voices cracking, the three “Mothers of the Movement” called for a dramatic shift in how police officers treat African-Americans.
The event had its share of dark moments that left the audience silent. Even so, Carr, Hamilton and Reed-Veal sought to deliver an optimistic message.
“We can change the narrative of how we’re being policed and how the politicians write laws and bills that govern us and our community,” Hamilton said.
Bryan Anderson: @bryanranderson