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Diddy, Gotti Fight Drug Law

Hip-Hop Network takes on mandatory sentences

Russell Simmons and his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network held a
Countdown to Fairness press conference and rally today to urge New
York Governor George Pataki to repeal the state’s infamous
Rockefeller drug laws. Simmons was joined by Run-DMC’s Rev. Run,
Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, the Rev. Al Sharpton, former
gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and Lava Records president and
CEO Jason Flom at the rally. Following the conference, the
coalition moved to Pataki’s New York City offices for a protest
that drew hundreds.

The controversial laws were enacted thirty years ago at the
behest of then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who instituted
stringent prison sentences for drug-related crimes, with the logic
that the penalties would be a deterrent. For decades, protestors
have singled out examples of non-violent drug abusers who drew
mandatory sentences that exceeded those handed down to rapists and
those involved in murders. “We’re talking about reform,” Simmons
said. “Let’s give it back to judges to decide [sentences].”

Added Sharpton, “This is not about decriminalizing drugs. This
is about a fair and equitable criminal justice policy.” Several
speakers pointed out that ninety-four percent of those incarcerated
under the laws are black or Latino, a fact Simmons called “the
worst case of racial profiling we’ve ever seen.” Sharpton, who is
also in the early stages of a presidential run, suggested that such
laws would have been quickly repealed in Florida to aid President
George W. Bush’s troubled niece.

Simmons has put together a large coalition of entertainers to
support the cause, including Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Damon Dash, Irv
Gotti, Ludacris, Redman, Method Man, Cam’ron and politicians
including New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Hilary Clinton.

“I’m finding support everywhere,” Simmons said. “Rappers are the
voice for disenfranchised poor people. And this hits home for the
rap community.”

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