Terror Attack and Guns Dominate Clinton's Speech in Cleveland
Many of the 700 people who gathered in Cleveland Monday to hear Hillary Clinton speak said they wanted her talk about the weekend’s terror attack in Orlando – and about the availability of guns in America. As WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports, she did both.
Hillary Clinton focused on the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people before police killed the gunman, Omar Mateen. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee raised questions about the killer and condemned his violence.
“The Orlando terrorist may be dead. But the virus that poisoned his mind remains very much alive. And we must attack it with clear eyes, steady hands, unwavering determination and pride in our country and our values."
That, she said, means supporting the fight against ISIS in the Middle East and at home.
“We and our allies must move hand in hand to dismantle the networks that move money and propaganda and arms and fighters around the world. “
The question of guns
Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric ... hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror.
On the domestic side, Clinton acknowledged big questions remain about Mateen, including how he was able to buy weapons legally even while the FBI was repeatedly investigating him. She pledged an “intelligence surge” – committing more resources to tracking lone-wolf terrorists in the U.S. and the on-line propaganda that feeds them.
And she committed, again, to universal background checks for people to buy guns and for tighter restrictions on assault weapons.
“I know some will say that assault weapons and background checks are totally separate issues having nothing to do with terrorism. Well in Orlando and San Bernardino, terrorists used assault weapons, the AR-15. And they used it to kill Americans.”
She noted the same gun was used to kill 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary school and added, “We have to make it harder for people who should not have those weapons of war.”
Clinton was giving her speech on the floor of a manufacturing startup on Cleveland’s east side, surrounding by flags, bunting and the biggest names in Ohio Democratic politics, including Sen. Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.
A short time later in New Hampshire, presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, delivered extended remarks on the weekend attack. He accused the Muslim community of “knowing what’s going on” regarding terrorism, and renewed his call to ban Muslims from coming to the U.S.
“It will be lifted, this ban, when and as a nation we’re in a position to properly and perfectly screen these people.”
Muslims in America
In her speech,Clinton never mentioned Trump by name. But she condemned what she called the “scapegoating of Muslims” in America.
“Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror.”
She said Trump’s proposed ban – and the rhetoric surrounding it – makes law-enforcement efforts that rely on the cooperation of Muslim communities more difficult—and hate crimes against Muslims more likely. She also said a call for surveillance of Muslims plays dangerously into terrorists’ hands.
But she maintained the U.S. must acknowledge that some -- guided by what she called a “distorted version of Islam” have targeted America for its diversity and openness.
“The terrorist in Orlando targeted LGBT Americans out of hatred and bigotry. And an attack on any American is an attack on all Americans."
She concluded by evoking images of a united yet diverse America responding to the Orlando attack – and to that of 9/11, including “religious leaders condemning hate and appealing for peace. People lining up to donate blood. Americans refusing to be intimidated or divided.”
Hecklers and supporters
But not everyone in the crowd was united behind Clinton. Shortly after she started, a handful of hecklers began chanting, “H is for Hypocrisy.” They were quickly drowned out by the crowd chanting, “We love Hillary.”
Among the supporters was Antonnette Graham, long a backer of Clinton.
“She has such a clear focus on how we can be sensible around guns. I grew up with guns. My father was a hunter. There’s a place for guns. But not these kind of automatic guns that just mow people down.”
And she was joined in supporting Clinton by 11-year-old Audrey Zorska, who danced in excitement before the Clinton event, to which her father brought her as a surprise.
“She’d be the first girl president, and then maybe people wouldn’t underestimate girls as much.”
Clinton is expected back in Ohio next week, as the state is expected once again to play a key swing role in the presidential election.