CROWN HEIGHTS — Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton spoke at a women-centric town hall in the neighborhood Tuesday ahead of the April 19 New York presidential primary.
Clinton revved up a crowd of supporters at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights while high-profile New York women like First Lady Chirlane McCray, Public Advocate Letitia James and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke stood in support of the former secretary of state.
Local issues at the event — billed as a town hall-style meeting though the candidate took no questions — took center stage, including paid sick leave, minimum wage, gun control and police brutality. The latter point was addressed by Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died during an arrest in 2014, and Nicole Paultre Bell, the fiancée of police shooting victim Sean Bell, who attended the rally to unequivocally support Clinton.
“Her crew calls me on the regular,” Carr said of the Democratic candidate. “We’re on a first-name basis.”
Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, seated in white: "We tried all the men, so now let's try a woman." Major applause. pic.twitter.com/Id5IXe8Xh5— Rachel H. Smith (@rachelholliday) April 5, 2016
Clinton herself praised the city’s current leaders for making strides on many progressive issues, including respectful policing.
“I really applaud what the mayor and [Police Commissioner] Bill Bratton and the City Council are doing to show that you can keep crime down and respect people’s civil rights,” she said.
She railed, however, against how her opponents handle similar challenges. In particular, she called out Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for wanting to “religiously profile people.”
“[He said] let’s have special police patrols that go into neighborhoods where Muslims live. Now, how we’re going to figure that out in New York is beyond me. Maybe other cities have signs,” she said to laughter from the audience. “It’s just craziness.”
On the topic of women’s health, Clinton framed her stance — to increase access to abortions and support Planned Parenthood — in opposition to the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, who said recently women should be punished for getting an abortion.
“Trump may be the most outrageous of the Republicans, but he is saying what all of them believe. They want abortion to be illegal and they do want to punish women and doctors. He just committed the sin of actually telling people,” she said.
Clinton’s remarks on the gender wage gap — which she hopes to address by requiring that companies “take a look” at whether male and female employees make the same wages for equal work — struck Flatbush resident and rally attendee Janis Pinkney personally.
The 67-year-old said she was one of a handful of black women working as a trader on Wall Street before her retirement and knew she made less than her male counterparts.
“What she said was true. You know, I just made enough to make it and go on vacations and I was able to save, but not as much as the men,” she recalled.
Pinkney, a Board of Elections poll worker and lifelong Brooklynite, said attending Tuesday’s event was “a rush.”
“I thought it was wonderful — the best experience of my life. And I’m no spring chicken,” she said with a laugh.
Clinton, who served as a senator in New York and has a residence in Chappaqua, N.Y., will face off against Brooklyn native and fellow Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders in a televised debate in the borough set for April 14, CNN announced this week.
Clinton’s supporters called on her connection to New York throughout Tuesday’s rally. But Clinton herself ended the rally with high praise for the city — in the form of an allusion to #NewYorkValues, the popular hashtag refrain created in opposition to Sen. Cruz’s derisive use of the phrase in an earlier Republican debate.
“When it comes down to it, I believe the values of New York are the values of America,” she said, before walking offstage to take selfies with excited attendees.