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Black Lives Matter Mothers to Address Convention Tuesday

by Perry Bacon Jr. /  / Updated 
Sybrina Fulton (L), mother of shooting victim Trayvon Martin, endorses U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a town hall meeting at Central Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstJONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

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On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign will try to navigate a difficult balancing act that the Obama White House is struggling with: Pressing forward on reforms to policing while also signaling support for law enforcement.

A group of black women whose sons and daughters died in racially-charged incidents -- including three killed by police officers -- will speak on Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention. The women include the mothers of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, whose 2014 deaths helped inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.

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The “Mothers of the Movement” contingent campaigned across the country during the primaries for Clinton, serving as a high-profile group of black surrogates. The former secretary of state has made fighting institutional racism a signature issue in her campaign and proposed changes to policing, such as greatly expanding implicit bias training for officers.

And Clinton has repeatedly used the phrase “Black Lives Matter” during her presidential run, invoking the mantra of the civil rights movement that has emerged over the last two years.

But in the wake of shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the tenor of the policing debate has changed. A strong pro-police movement has emerged on the right. The Republican National Convention last week featured plenty of praise of the police, with one speaker declaring “Blue Lives Matter” to loud applause. Donald Trump’s acceptance speech in Cleveland included a strong defense of officers.

Obama has said that is possible to be supportive of both Black Lives Matter and law enforcement. But under fire from conservatives and some police groups, the president last week released an open letter to law enforcement, extolling officers on how important they are to American society. On Friday, he gave a short speech at the White House with that same message.

The mothers are expected to speak about policing and race but also gun control. Some of the children of the mothers who will speak on Tuesday died in shootings that did not involve police officers. And in their appearances on the campaign trail, the mothers have joined Clinton’s calls for expanded background checks and limits on assault weapons.

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