January 17, 2000
Hillary Clinton Meets Sharpton on King Day
By BETH J. HARPAZ
NEW YORK (AP) -- A long-awaited meeting between Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Rev. Al Sharpton took place Monday at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
Mrs. Clinton also spoke at Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem and attended a King tribute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. At each event, she recalled meeting King in 1963 at age 15 when she traveled with her church youth group to hear him speak in Chicago.
``He took my hand and shook it and I felt my life would never be the same,'' she said, adding that King's stirring speech that night inspired her to ``dedicate my life to public service.''
Mrs. Clinton, who is running for a Senate seat from New York, noted there has been progress in blacks achieving equality, but added: ``There is still a need for affirmative action.'' She quoted her husband, President Clinton, saying of affirmative action, ``We need to mend it, not end it.''
Earlier, the audience of about 300 at the Sharpton event repeatedly interrupted the first lady with cheers, applause and occasional cries of ``Run Hillary run!''
Afterwards, she met privately with Sharpton and several others, including the parents of Amadou Diallo, the unarmed African immigrant who was killed by four white police officers in the Bronx.
``I had a few private moments with them and expressed my personal sympathy and condolences and shared my hope that justice is done,'' Mrs. Clinton said.
The trial of the officers is set to begin soon in Albany, where it was moved after an appellate court concluded the officers could not get a fair trial in the Bronx. Sharpton and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y, have asked the U.S. Justice Department to consider investigating the case.
``If there is a role for the federal government, I would certainly encourage and urge that that would occur,'' said Mrs. Clinton. She said it was too early to say whether such a step was merited.
Mrs. Clinton did not agree on every issue raised at the Sharpton event, at one point defending sanctions against Iraq despite murmurs of disapproval.
``She did very well,'' Sharpton said afterwards. ``She did not show any reluctance at all to deal with the issues.''
Separately Monday, Mrs. Clinton 's likely Republican opponent, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, held a prayer breakfast at the official mayor's residence and attended a dinner by the Congress of Racial Equality. But he skipped the King tribute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which he has attended for the past few years, because Mrs. Clinton decided to attend it.
Shortly before Mrs. Clinton entered Sharpton's headquarters, another speaker, Rev. Charles Norris, said he had missed one of King's demonstrations because he was working. Referring to his former employers, Norris said: ``Miller No. 1 was a Jew. Miller No. 2 was a Jew. I was then employed by yet another Jew by the name of Jesus ... and will not be fired until he thinks it's necessary.''
Mrs. Clinton later told reporters that before she arrived, ``I heard that one of the speakers made some divisive comments, which I soundly reject.''
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