Sandra Bland's mother joins Hillary Clinton at rally in Chicago

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, responds to the crowd's applause after an introductory poem by Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland of Naperville, who was found dead in a Texas jail cell.

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, responds to the crowd's applause after an introductory poem by Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland of Naperville, who was found dead in a Texas jail cell. Associated Press Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

 
 
Updated 2/18/2016 8:43 AM

In her time as first lady, secretary of state and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton has been introduced by an array of world leaders and celebrities. But the rhyming tribute from the mother of Naperville native Sandra Bland topped them all, said Clinton, who became emotional as she took the podium at Wednesday's get-out-the-vote rally in Chicago.

"I've shared with you just some of Hillary's views," Geneva Reed-Veal told a crowd packed inside a South Side ballroom. "Now it's up to you to do your research and vote when you're through."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Clinton, meanwhile, praised Reed-Veal for "spirit and commitment" and her ability to turn grief into action after her daughter was found dead in what was ruled a suicide in a Texas jail cell three days after a contentious traffic stop by a state trooper.

Clinton and Reed-Veal walked on stage together holding hands.

"People are expecting a new president. In nine months, Hillary is the new baby. Think about that," Reed-Veal quipped, to laughter.

Clinton -- who made a stop in Illinois en route to Nevada where she faces caucuses Saturday against fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders -- cast herself as having an experienced, common-sense approach to problems ranging from police brutality to health care to improving educational opportunities. At the same time, she criticized the partisan divide both nationally and in Illinois, dismissing GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's Wednesday budget speech as "material for a sitcom."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Naperville native Sandra Bland, who was found dead in a Texas jail cell.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Naperville native Sandra Bland, who was found dead in a Texas jail cell. - Associated Press Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Along with Reed-Veal. Clinton was flanked by mothers of shooting victims, including Cleo Pendleton, the mother of Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton who died after being shot in a park in 2013.

"We owe it to them to reform police practices," Clinton said.

Brian Encinia, the officer who arrested Bland, who is black, was fired last month after being charged with perjury; he is accused of lying about his confrontation with her. His affidavit said he "removed her from her vehicle to further conduct a safer traffic investigation," but grand jurors "found that statement to be false," a special prosecutor told the Associated Press.

Clinton, speaking to a largely minority crowd, said the country needs to "face the reality of systemic racism if we are to break down the barriers … in our society."

Those barriers include in schools where, she said, children in Chicago "should have the same chance at a quality education as children of the suburbs."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She also pledged to work for enforceable equal pay for women and breaking down barriers in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Clinton touted the successes of husband Bill Clinton's administration at creating jobs and raising the country's median family income.

By contrast, she blasted Republican policies both in Washington and here, calling Illinois' nearly eight-month budget standoff "pretty terrifying."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, laughs during an introductory poem by Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland of Naperville.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, laughs during an introductory poem by Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland of Naperville. - Associated Press Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

The hometown stop for Clinton, who grew up in Park Ridge, was designed to boost her momentum as she heads to Nevada and the March 1 "Super Tuesday" primaries.

It came on the same day Sanders opened a field office in Chicago after an Illinois kickoff rally on Saturday. Republican candidates, too, are making a point of intensely courting voters ahead of Illinois' March 15 primary. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is set to appear at a major GOP event on March 11 in Rolling Meadows. He and business tycoon Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired surgeon Ben Carson, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio all have filed full slates of delegates in Illinois.

Clinton thanked her friends for their support in Illinois and beyond.

"I have so many friends here -- literally from grade school and elementary school. They travel around the country telling people, 'guess what,' I am a real person.'"

Juanita Martinez, a retired teacher from Northfield at the rally, said she's impressed with Clinton because she has experience and a track record to back up her talking points.

"I don't want her because she's a woman; I want her because she's the best candidate," Martinez said.

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