Hip-hop moguls came together on Wednesday to talk to Governor Andrew Cuomo about reforms needed in the wake of the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD. Jay Z and Russell Simmons came together at Cuomo’s Manhattan office to talk about the specific changes that should be made to restore public confidence in the justice system. Common joined Simmons and Cuomo later, at a City Hall press conference.
Protests have rocked the city since a grand jury decision not to indict police officers for the wrongful death of Eric Garner, who was placed in a chokehold that violates NYPD policy. The hip-hop royalty pushed for reforms that in Simmons’s words, would “promote the end of police protecting police and not prosecuting police.”
Among the list of changes, they advocated for Cuomo “to order that special prosecutors, rather than local district attorneys, handle cases of alleged police brutality.” Simmons claimed that Cuomo agreed, but a spokesman for the governor pulled back on that, saying they merely discussed a “range of options that could be included.”
New York’s own attorney general has also pushed to be given prosecutorial powers in cases of police violence against unarmed civilians.
It was no coincidence that on the same day that Simmons was meeting with City Hall, The Justice League, an advocate group that organizes protests convened as well. The Justice League has been perceived as a leaderless group that has been pivotal to the protests revolving around the Garner case. But the group has explicit ties to celebrities, including Harry Belafonte and Michael Skolnik, political director for none other than Simmons.
Supporters of The Justice League saw yesterday’s meeting with the powers that be as a sign of protestors being taken seriously by a more progressive administration. In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We’re going to take a very different view going forward about how we respect people’s rights to express themselves.”
It remains to be seen if tangible change will accompany the respect.
(Photo: DJ NAIM)