The mothers of Dontre Hamilton and Sandra Bland insist this election does not come down to a question of race but one of morality.

Credit: Haley Suh

When Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reached out to Maria Hamilton in March, along with 20 other mothers who lost their children in a police shooting, Hamilton thought that she was going to be talking to just another politician, she said at a Philadelphia event this weekend. But when Hamilton arrived in Chicago to meet with Clinton, she realized that the presidential candidate was just like her, a mother.

Hamilton and others spoke in support of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in West Philadelphia Sunday on behalf of the group Mothers of the Movement, which represents mothers who have lost sons and daughters to fatal encounters with law enforcement.

“When Hillary got there, the staffers left the room, there was no media, and we all told our stories … I cried on her shoulder and told her that 20 months after my son died, I was still fighting to clear his name because he did nothing wrong,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton’s son, Dontre Hamilton, was killed in April 2014, when a police officer named Christopher Manney shot the 31-year-old man 14 times in a public park. Dontre Hamilton, who had a history of mental illness, was sleeping in the park when he was shot down.

“We saw the compassion in her face … She was genuinely hurt listening to our stories, and she told us that she couldn’t imagine if she could’ve withstood it if something like that happened to her daughter or to one of her grandchildren,” Hamilton said of Clinton.

Beside Hamilton at Sunday’s campaign event was Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old woman who was arrested by a police officer for a minor traffic violation and was later found dead in a jail cell.

“She didn’t come to us asking for our vote, she didn’t come to us asking us to get on the campaign trail. She came to us and said, ‘I’m tired of this and I know you are too,’” Reed-Veal said.

Speaking to a small room filled with Clinton supporters, both women expressed the need for voter turnout. They also emphasized that this year’s election was not simply about race.

“This isn’t a color thing. This isn’t about race for me. It’s about people in power that are being paid to make laws that govern everybody, because the United States isn’t doing that anymore,” Hamilton said.

Sharing a similar sentiment, Reed-Veal said, “This isn’t about black and white. This is about right or wrong. [Clinton] is more than qualified, and she’s proven that.” 

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