Hillary Clinton broke her silence Thursday on the shooting of Michael Brown, addressing the tragedy that tipped off two weeks of racially fraught violence in Ferguson, Missouri for the first time during a speech at a tech conference in San Francisco.
“Watching the recent funeral for Michael Brown, as a mother, as a human being, my heart just broke for his family. Because losing a child is every parent's greatest fear and an unimaginable loss,” she said at the beginning of her paid remarks to the Nexenta OpenSDx Summit. “But I also grieve for that community and for many like it across our country.”
Speaking for almost five minutes on the situation in Ferguson in what appeared to be prepared comments, Clinton also addressed the issues of police militarization and racial bias in the justice system.
Clinton has come under fire from civil rights leaders and others for remaining silent on Ferguson.“Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, don’t get laryngitis on this issue,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, who hosts an msnbc show in addition to leading the National Action Network, said at a rally. Despite the calls, a Clinton spokesperson declined several requests for comment from msnbc, and Clinton herself dodged reporters’ questions on Ferguson at a book signing last weekend.
Clinton not only addressed the tragedy on Thursday, but also the societal issues behind it. “We can't ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system,” she said, imploring the audience to think about how they would feel if white drivers were stopped as often black drivers, or given as long prison sentences as African-Americans.
“Just look at this room and take if one-third went to prison during their lifetime. Imagine that. That is the reality in the lives of so many of our fellow Americans and so many of the communities in which they live,” she said, citing incarceration rates for black men.
“Nobody wants to see our streets look like a war zone, not in America. We are better than that, she said,” according to footage of the speech aired by CNN. She added that law enforcement should inspire “trust, rather than fear.”
She added that she she “applaud[s]” President Obama for sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson, whose visit was meant to ensure a thorough investigation and ease tensions in the community.
Noting that Thursday is the 51st anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, Clinton urged Americans to come together to address the problems from King’s day that persist to our own.