Clinton cheers US state’s removal of rebel flag

West Columbia: Hillary Rodham Clinton praised South Carolina leaders for removing the rebel Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds but said Americans must “dig deeper” against racial injustice.

It was Clinton’s first campaign appearance in South Carolina, which holds the South’s first presidential primary, since the massacre at a black church in Charleston prompted the rebel flag’s removal by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican-run Legislature.

“Anybody who says we don’t have more progress to make is blind,” she told more than 400 people at a black church in West Columbia, near the state Capitol, where the Confederate banner was removed earlier this month in a dramatic, bipartisan ceremony. Those who point to progress, she added, have “not kept their eyes and ears open.”

The white suspect in the Charleston massacre appeared in photos waving rebel Confederate flags, and survivors told police that he hurled racial insults during the attack. The shootings renewed a movement to remove the rebel flag from the public sphere around the South. The flag, flown by armies of the secessionist pro-slavery Confederacy during the Civil War, is claimed by some white southerners as a symbol of regional and ancestral pride but has also been used by white supremacists.

Clinton offered a harsh assessment of a criminal justice system she said is unfair to blacks.

“There are clear, undeniable racial disparities,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to gloss it over or pretend it will just go away if we are nicer to each other.” She said: “We have to dig deeper,” and that all Americans should rally behind the cry, “black lives matter.”

The phrase spread rapidly after the deaths of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of police, including Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. The white officer who shot Brown was not charged. In the South Carolina case, the officer captured on video shooting Scott in the back has since been fired and charged with murder.

Clinton also cited the Texas case of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in her jail cell last week after her arrest during a traffic stop.

Clinton repeated her call for more federal spending on early childhood education and infrastructure as well as on expanding broadband Internet access in poor areas.

And she again avoided taking a specific position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. “Every trade deal does have pluses and minuses,” she said, noting she both backed and rejected such agreements as a senator. “It’s our job to maximize the pluses.”

She was forceful in criticizing China, saying Asia’s pre-eminent economic power is undercutting US companies with cheap labor and questionable trade practices. She said the US and international trade community must do a better job of enforcing existing trade pacts.