Jay Z, Russell Simmons Meet with New York Governor Over Criminal Justice Reforms
Jay Z, Common and Russell Simmons met with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday to advocate for significant reforms to the criminal justice system. The meeting came in the wake of grand jury decisions in Staten Island, New York and Ferguson, Missouri to not bring charges against white police officers involved in the killings of unarmed black men Eric Garner and Michael Brown, the Associated Press reports.
“We want to promote the end of police protecting police and not prosecuting police,” Simmons said during a press conference outside of City Hall in New York City. Common echoed the hip-hop mogul’s statement, saying America “should be ashamed of itself” over the non-indictments, adding, “We’re going to do everything it takes to change the system.”
Simmons told the crowd Cuomo pledged to have special prosecutors handle such cases in the future, rather than local prosecutors who often work closely with police during investigations. This has been one of the major reforms called for by protestors and activists, though the governor’s spokeswoman, Melissa DeRosa, said this was just one aspect of Cuomo and Simmons’ conversation. The meeting touched on “a range of options that could be included” in changes to the criminal justice system the governor will work on passing next year.
DeRosa added that Cuomo and Jay Z also had “a productive conversation,” but neither she nor a spokeswoman for the rapper would offer any details.
Jay Z was also an integral part of another protest this week. As The New York Times reports, the rapper helped in the distribution of shirts that read ”I Can’t Breathe” — Garner’s plea to the officer who had him in a chokehold that has since become a rallying cry for protestors — to NBA players like LeBron James and Kevin Garnett during a high-profile game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets earlier this week. The game was attended by Jay Z and wife Beyoncé alongside Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Following the initiative of Chicago Bulls’ star Derrick Rose, who adorned his own “I Can’t Breathe” shirt before a game on Saturday, organizers at Justice League NYC were able to reach out to Jay Z. The rapper subsequently got in touch with James and Brooklyn Nets star Deron Williams to coordinate a discreet drop-off of the “I Cant Breathe” shirts with the help of a security guard. By Tuesday, similar shirts were being worn by players around the league, including the Los Angeles Lakers and all-star Kobe Bryant.