October 17th, 2012 | Contact: Alfredo Carrasquillo, (718) 415-9254
(Photos from the protest are available on our flickr page)
Brooklyn, NY – Civil rights activists protested outside a campaign fundraiser for Senator Marty Golden at Gargiulo’s Restaurant in Coney Island this evening after he blocked bipartisan legislation that would reduce costly, racially biased and unconstitutional marijuana arrests. The protest came one day after Governor Cuomo told reporters that he “would not even consider” pay raises for state legislators unless they enacted his marijuana reform proposal, which he described as “ending the injustices of stop and frisk.”
“Why is Marty Golden standing in the way of smart reforms, supported by Commissioner Kelly and other leading law enforcement, that would enhance public safety, save taxpayer dollars and reduce unwarranted racial disparities?” asked Alfredo Carrasquillo, the Civil Rights Community Organizer at VOCAL-NY.
Over 50,000 arrests were made last year, mostly targeting young Black and Latino men despite higher rates of marijuana use among white youth, at a cost of $75 million to taxpayers.
“These arrests needlessly criminalize young people – especially young people of color – and severely harms the relationship between law enforcement and the community,” said Brian Pearson, a VOCAL-NY leader.
When Governor Cuomo sought to fix a problem with the marijuana possession laws, he received support from all across the state. NYPD Commissioner Kelly, District Attorneys from all five boroughs, and police chiefs and community leaders and more from across the state declared support for the governor’s proposal; fixing the marijuana possession laws would reduce costly, racially biased and unconstitutional arrests for simple possession. Commissioner Ray Kelly called the proposal “a balanced approach” and Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes said proposed reform would “go a long way toward a more balanced approach to drug related offenses.”
But Senator Golden didn’t care what these law enforcement leaders or Governor Cuomo wanted. He sought to block sensible reform. Golden ally Mike Long, chair of the Conservative Party and a former owner of a liquor store, threatened to pull his party’s line for any Senate Republican who stood with Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly and DA Hynes in supporting reform. Golden and Long’s wrongheaded opposition means that New York City taxpayers are wasting millions for the police to arrest young people for marijuana possession, create racial disparities, and saddle young people with a lifelong criminal record.
Commissioner Kelly issued an operations order in September 2011 commanding officers to follow existing New York State law – the order directed officers to stop falsely charging people for possessing marijuana in public view if individuals removed marijuana from their pocket under the order of a police officer. However, arrests have only fallen slightly since that time, underscoring the need for legislative reform and helping spur Governor Cuomo’s proposal.
VOCAL-NY is a statewide grassroots membership organization building power among low-income New Yorkers to end the drug war, mass incarceration and HIV/AIDS crisis.