Russell Simmons Leads NY Protest Against Rockefeller Drug Laws

AllHipHop Staff

Pioneering Hip-Hop mogul and activist Russell Simmons led a protest today (March 25) in Manhattan to end the controversial Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The rally began this afternoon in front of Governor David Paterson’s Manhattan office, located at 633 3rd Ave. Enacted in 1973, Rockefeller Drug Laws decree stiff mandatory sentences of 15-25 years to life in prison for selling 56 grams or more of narcotics, including marijuana.

The bill has received criticism for its perceived focus on low-level and minority offenders, mostly incarcerated for possessing small amounts of crack cocaine.

Although moderate reforms were made in 2004, Simmons is pushing for the New York Senate and Governor Paterson to support a new Assembly bill that will restore judicial discretion in sentencing.

The bill would also expand drug treatment, and apply retroactive relief to those previously convicted for low-level offenses.

“We are at the pivotal point where our hard work pays off,” Simmons told in exclusively. “But we can't let up now. The fact is the Governor and State Senator both fought for the changes that the assembly has proposed to them. But both the Governor Patterson and the State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith need to hear your voices. They are being pushed by forces that are not interested in changing this horrible law which has devastated black and brown communities for two generations.”

To date, it is estimated that of the 12,000 individuals convicted on Rockefeller charges, 90% are African-American or Latino and annually cost the state $45,000 per person.

Simmons was joined by various community organizations such as FREE (Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment), New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Correctional Association of New York.

Meile Rockefeller, granddaughter of Rockefeller Drug Law founder and former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, will also be in attendance.

Simmons also urged those who could not attend to take action and apply continuous pressure until the bill is passed.

“Call or write Governor Paterson or State Senate Majority Leader Smith and push them to be true to the communities that made them. Tell them now that they are in power they can make the difference.”