Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the spate of gun violence in the United States should call the nation to do more to protect "all of God's children."
Clinton addressed congregants at Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, fewer than two weeks after the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott touched off two nights of violent protests in the city's downtown.
"Protecting all of God's children is America's calling," the Democratic presidential nominee said. Clinton said too many black families have been forced to deal with the same tragedy as Scott's family.
"Our entire country should take a moment to really look at what's going on here and across America, to imagine what we see on the news and what we hear about, imagine it through our children's eyes," she said.
Clinton had planned to visit the city last week but delayed the trip after city officials said their resources were stretched thin. North Carolina is among the nation's top battleground states and Clinton's campaign has invested heavily in the state won by Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
Clinton did not mention Republican Donald Trump by name but referenced her opponent's calls for "law-and-order" during the campaign.
"There are some out there who see this as a moment to fan the flames of resentment and division. Who want to exploit people's fears even though it means tearing our nation even further apart," Clinton said. "They say that all of our problems would be solved simply by more law and order. As if the systemic racism plaguing our country doesn't exist."
The former secretary of state has made gun control and criminal justice reform a centerpiece of her campaign, speaking after high-profile shootings in Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina. She pointed to the shootings of police officers in Dallas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Philadelphia; and said their families deserved prayers.
"It's been a hard year, hasn't it?" Clinton asked, as people in the congregation responded, "Yes." ''Think about how many times President Obama has had to console our nation about another senseless tragedy, another shattered family, another distressed community and our children are watching and they feel it too."
During the services, Clinton invited 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant to join her at the pulpit, recalling the black child's tearful address to the city council on race relations. Zianna recently told city leaders that she couldn't "stand how we're treated," a speech that Clinton said moved her to tears.
“We are black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel like this,” Zianna said, The Washington Post reported, sobbing. “We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to and have rights.”
Zianna said she was born and raised in Charlotte. But until recently, she said, “I’ve never felt this way.”
“I can’t stand how we’re treated,” Zianna told the city council, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed, and we can’t even see them anymore. It’s a shame that we have to go to that graveyard and bury them. And we have tears, and we shouldn’t have tears.
“We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side.”
Clinton said the remarks of Zianna “made her heart ache,” The New York Daily News reported.
“I'm a grandmother and like every grandmother, I worry about the safety and security of my grandchildren. But my worries are not the same as black grandmothers,” Clinton said.
“But because my grandchildren are white, because they are the grandchildren of a former president and secretary of state — let's be honest here — they won't face the kind of fear that we heard from the young children testifying before the city council.”
Clinton later met privately with community leaders at a downtown soul food restaurant.
Scott was shot Sept. 20 while standing outside his vehicle. Police say he was armed but video released by Charlotte-Mecklenburg authorities was inconclusive. The officer who shot Scott is also black.