“Maybe you can’t run for president on a love and kindness platform but I’m going try,” she said, at a meeting of Black ministers in Atlanta. “We have to start behaving like we are all part of the same family and like every child is our child.”
The trip to Georgia and South Carolina comes as Clinton works to solidify her advantage in the African-American community, which could give her a crucial edge over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the early voting state of South Carolina. Both candidates have called for ending mass incarceration and reforming the criminal justice system in the United States, an issue that has become a rallying cry for younger black activists who will play a key role in choosing a nominee.
In Atlanta on Friday afternoon, Clinton will call for eliminating 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 — which are concentrated among minorities — and powder crimes, which are more likely to involve whites. Clinton’s plan would make the change retroactive, according to her campaign.
Sanders, campaigning in New Hampshire, noted his longstanding commitment to the issue, saying in a statement that Clinton “is right. We must eliminate sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine. That is why I have repeatedly voted in favor of addressing this disparity.”
Sanders also pointed to his announcement this week that he would seek to remove marijuana from a list of drugs considered illegal by the federal government, freeing up states to regulate pot like alcohol or tobacco. “Any serious criminal justice reform must include removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act,” he said.
Clinton has made frank discussion about the country’s lingering racism a central theme of her primary campaign, in an effort to woo the coalition of minority, young, and female voters who twice catapulted Barack Obama into the White House.
Introduced by Jesse Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, she highlighted her history of civil rights activism, starting with her first job after law school for a child advocacy organization. And she stressed her determination to build upon Obama’s legacy.
“It will be up to me assuming we get this done to be a president who builds on what we have achieved and goes even further,” she said.
Lingering questions about her use of a private server while secretary of state and her role in the deadly 2012 attacks in Libya clouded some of that message in the early months of her candidacy, said Jackson, who introduced Clinton by saying: “It’s healing time. It’s hope time. It’s Hillary Clinton.”
“Hillary was always raising the right issues, but you couldn’t hear it for the noise around the servers and the Benghazi issue,” Jackson told The Associated Press before her Friday remarks.
“Those barriers proved to be smoke and no fire,” he continued. “She’s back into another zone now.”
Jackson’s comments are meaningful given his longstanding ties to Clinton and Sanders, her chief rival. Sanders endorsed both of Jackson’s presidential bids in 1984 and 1988. And despite Jackson’s long relationship with the Clinton family, he backed Obama in the 2008 primary, though his wife endorsed Clinton.
Clinton on Friday also will propose a legal ban on racial profiling by police. The policy would forbid federal, state and local officers from “relying on a person’s race when conducting routine or spontaneous investigatory activities,” unless they have information linking a suspect to a crime. The campaign has not yet released details explaining how Clinton’s idea would go beyond existing law, but cited previous congressional proposals that would make it easier for alleged profiling victims to recover damages from government agencies in civil court.
And she will embrace the movement to “ban the box,” or prevent the federal government and contractors from asking about criminal history during initial job applications. Studies have shown that employers are reluctant to hire applications with a criminal history, but job prospects improve for former felons if hiring managers hear about their qualifications before their criminal records.
Later Friday, she is scheduled to address an NAACP banquet in Charleston, South Carolina. It is the organization’s first annual banquet since the April killing of Walter Scott, a black man shot by a white North Charleston police officer who was later fired and charged with murder, and the June massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where a white gunman killed a pastor and eight others.
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