Russell Simmons: Ray Kelly is 'insensitive,' Cuomo and Bloomberg need to be forced to spend on social programs
2:59 pm Jan. 17, 20121
Hip-hop producer Russell Simmons joined a number of elected officials and anti-gun-violence activists to announce the start of the third annual Peace Week, aimed at curbing violence in crime-plagued neighborhoods throughout New York City.
"My number-one effort is to get people involved and to get funding and support for these special grassroots organizations that are doing the hard work," Simmons said at the press conference, held on the City Hall steps.
Other attendees expressed support for Peace Week, but said the conversation about curbing violence needed to expand and include questions about police conduct.
"The police department should be the primary organization to deal with public safety but they cannot be the only organization and agency responsible for public safety," said City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn.
He complained about funding cuts to social programs in high-crime areas.
"So, we cut these programs, and we put these policies in and then we send the NYPD to make sure everybody is happy and content in the poverty that they now have to live in," Williams said.
Councilman Ruben Wills of Queens said he wanted the NYPD to "open every cold case that they have" and "go back in and investigate and lock the people up responsible for this."
Before reporters could ask questions, Simmons left. I caught up with him across the street from City Hall, and spoke to him through a car window as he sat in the back seat.
I asked him what he thought about the job Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were doing to address the problems he was talking about.
"Man, you got to make the motherfuckers do it," he said. "They ain't gonna do shit unless you make 'em. That's why we need your awareness."
Simmons said, in Bloomberg's defense, that the mayor has tried to preserve funding for social programs, but that more is needed.
"These programs are the only effective thing we have and the work they're doing is incredible," he said. "They're saving a lot of lives. They need money."
Then I asked him about NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who came in for indirect criticism during the press conference as the speakers criticized the polices of his department.
"I think Ray Kelly is really insensitive," Simmons said.
I asked him to explain.
"In many ways, I think in many ways," Simmons said.
He complained about the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies and, more broadly, drug-enforcement policies that result in disproportionately high rates of incaceration of black and Latino men.
"Ten times more people of color are put in jail over drugs when they use drugs and sell drugs at the same rate," Simmons said. "The problem in our community is the war on drugs has brought prison culture to our community. It took diseased people, put them in jail, train them in criminal behavior and pumped them back into communities. We have to now fix that."