Hillary Clinton on Tuesday was joined by the mothers of Trayvon Martin and others killed by gun violence at a roundtable discussion at which she urged the public to make gun control a voting issue.
The mothers of Eric Garner and Dontre Hamilton, who were killed in encounters with police, also spoke at the event in Columbia, South Carolina. The mother of Sandra Bland, the woman who died in a police holding cell after a traffic stop in Texas, also thanked Clinton for her support.
"Something is very wrong when we have these incidents where kids can get arrested for petty crimes and lose their lives,” Clinton said.
South Carolina’s primary is Saturday. Clinton has made gun control a point of her campaign, and has called for the end of legal immunity from some lawsuits enjoyed by firearms manufacturers, and for tighter rules over gun sales at gun shows and online.
"This isn’t just an urban problem as some like to say. It’s a problem for our entire country," Clinton said, referring to Saturday’s apparently random shooting spree in Michigan in which a gunman killed 6 people.
Gabby Giffords, the former U.S. representative who survived a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona, also appeared at the event, although she has campaigned with Clinton before.
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, said Clinton was the only presidential candidate who contacted her after Garner’s death following a police chokehold in Staten Island, New York.
"We didn’t have to go looking for her. She came to us," Carr said.
Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Martin, said of Clinton and the election: "We have an opportunity to have someone who is going to stand us for us as African Americans, for us as women."
Fulton, who first met Clinton in Chicago last year, said she "walked in as a presidential candidate but she walked out as a compassionate mother.”
Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre, a mentally ill man killed by a Milwaukee cop in 2014, said she cried on Clinton's shoulder.
"I had the opportunity, me and my next oldest son ... to speak with her and give her our concerns," said Hamilton. "I broke down on her shoulder. I owe her a cleaning bill. But she allowed it. At first I was kind of embarrassed, but then she told me, I am a mother and a grandmother and I feel your pain."
"You cannot fake compassion. You cannot fake genuine," said Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland's mother. "You cannot fake the fact that you care. I don't care if it's in the nine-month span of a window of the election, you can't fake that."
Clinton and rival Sen. Bernie Sanders have been jockeying for approval of black voters in South Carolina and elsewhere. On Tuesday, the Sanders campaign released an ad featuring director and activist Spike Lee endorsing the Vermont senator.
And the Garner family is apparently not united in their politics: Eric Garner's daughter endorsed Sanders earlier this year.