The Slatest

These Seven Mothers Who Lost Children to Police and Gun Violence Will Stand Up for Hillary on Tuesday Night

Hillary Clinton hugs Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, as she speaks before the third annual Circle of Mothers conference on May 21 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Barring any surprise changes to the schedule, the centerpiece of Tuesday’s programming at the Democratic National Convention will be the appearance of seven black women who have lost children to gun violence and/or police brutality. Among them will be the mother of Trayvon Martin, whose death at the hands of a neighborhood watchman in Florida gave rise to the slogan “Black Lives Matter” in 2012, and the mother of Michael Brown, whose fatal shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago catalyzed that slogan into a full-fledged movement.

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The segment has its origins in a three-hour dinner held in Chicago last November, during which Hillary Clinton met with Sybrina Fulton and Lezley McSpadden (the mothers of Martin and Brown, respectively), as well as eight other women whose sons and daughters have been killed as a result of gun violence or interactions with law enforcement. According to the New York Times, Clinton asked each attendee at the dinner to tell her own story before saying to the group, “You have a lot of power individually. But collectively, you need to come together. The country needs to hear from you.”

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Almost all the women who are appearing on the convention stage Tuesday have previously endorsed Clinton, and they’ve campaigned with her as part of an effort to build support for her candidacy among black voters. In February, at a moment when Clinton was facing a wave of criticism from representatives of Black Lives Matter over her support for the 1994 crime bill, five of the mothers appeared in a campaign video talking about how they’ve turned tragedy into motivation for political activism, and why they believe Clinton is the right person to lead on police reform and gun violence prevention.

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John J. McNesby, the president of the police union in Philadelphia, has condemned the Clinton campaign for Tuesday’s speaker schedule, writing in an open letter that he and his fellow union members were “shocked and saddened,” and that Clinton should be “ashamed of [herself] if that is possible.”

Below, a brief guide to the women whose planned appearance at the Democratic convention has so insulted McNesby and his union:

Gwen Carr

Mother of Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island in 2014 after a police officer put him in a chokehold. Garner, whose death was captured on a cellphone video, was selling loose cigarettes when police confronted him. His dying words—“I can’t breathe,” uttered 11 times while he lay facedown on the sidewalk—became iconic in the Black Lives Matter movement. The officer who choked him was not indicted. Carr endorsed Clinton in January, about a month before Garner’s daughter Erica appeared in a widely circulated campaign video for Bernie Sanders.

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Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton

Mother of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who was shot in 2013 while hanging out at a park in Chicago after gang members mistook her friends for affiliates of a rival crew. Pendleton was one of 415 people murdered in Chicago that year. Her death stirred extra attention, however, because just a week earlier she had performed on stage at President Obama’s second inauguration.

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Sybrina Fulton

Mother of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman while walking unarmed through a gated community in Florida. Zimmerman, who was a volunteer neighborhood watchman, called the police when he became suspicious of Martin, then engaged the teenager in a confrontation. Zimmerman successfully defended himself against murder charges by citing Florida’s stand-your-ground laws. His acquittal was greeted with disbelief around the country and spawned the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Sybrina Fulton endorsed Clinton in January with an op-ed on CNN.com in which she praised her commitment to gun violence prevention as well as “better training for officers,” “eliminating racial profiling,” and “investing in body cameras for every police department.”

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Maria Hamilton

Mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot 14 times by a police officer in Milwaukee in April 2014. The police officer, who was not charged, approached Hamilton while he was sleeping on a bench and engaged him in a confrontation. When Hamilton grabbed the officer’s baton from him and hit him with it, the officer perceived him to have “super human strength” and fired. Maria Hamilton founded Mothers for Justice United, and organized a Mother’s Day march against police violence last year in Washington, D.C. In February, she attended the Sanders-Clinton debate in Milwaukee as Clinton’s guest.

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Lucia McBath

Mother of Jordan Davis, who was 17 when he was fatally shot in 2012 for playing loud music at a gas station in Florida. Davis’ killer, Michael Dunn, fired 10 rounds into the car Davis was riding in with his friends and was sentenced to life without parole after being convicted of murder. McBath endorsed Clinton with an op-ed published by BET that focused on the candidate’s support for gun control.

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Lezley McSpadden

Mother of Michael Brown, who was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014, after a confrontation in the street. Brown’s death, and the eventual nonindictment of Wilson, was greeted with outrage across the country, and the military-style approach that the Ferguson police department embraced when dealing with street protesters further enflamed relations between law enforcement and minorities. McSpadden endorsed Clinton in March, the day of the Missouri primary, saying in a statement, “I want a leader who is willing to take the steps to reform a justice system that dehumanized my son.”

Geneva Reed-Veal

Mother of Sandra Bland, who committed suicide in a jail cell after being pulled over on a minor traffic violation in Waller County, Texas, in July 2015. Dashboard camera footage showed Bland having an argument with the officer who pulled her over before the officer threatened her with a stun gun and arrested her. Bland died after spending three days in jail under a $5,000 bond. Bland’s mother began campaigning with Hillary Clinton in February.

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