Black Radical Congress (United New York Chapter)

For Immediate Release

February 18, 2001

Contact: Joe Sims, jsims@dqueen.com or jsims@cpusa.org

TOWN-HALL MEETING ON RESCINDING THE ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS

The movement to rescind New York state's infamous
Rockefeller Drug laws is gaining momentum as evidenced by
the over 400 people who turned out Thursday, February 15th
at Harlem's Convent Baptist church at a Town-Hall Meeting on
the Rockefeller Drug laws. The forum was cosponsored by the
Interfaith Partnership for Criminal Justice in New York City
and the Black Radical Congress United New York chapter.

The program was introduced by Rev. Carolyn Holloway of the
Dewitt Reformed Church and IFP steering Committee member.
Speakers included Manning Marable, national co-chair of 
the Black Radical Congress, Harlem Councilman Bill Perkins,
Deborah Peterson Small of the Lindesmith Center, Joe Haslip,
representing state Senator David Patterson, and representatives 
of Senators Velmanettte Montgomery, and Tom Duane and Assembly 
Scott Stringer.

Dr. Marable, speaking to the packed house on behalf of the
United New York Black Radical Congress, stated that the time
was overdue to repeal the Rockefeller Drug laws. "Prisons
are a means of warehousing unemployed labor and exploiting
it through outsourcing," he said. "This labor encompasses
millions of people. It is not paid and it is not counted."

Marable continued, "Nationally, at any given day, there are
on average about 5.4 million Americans who are involved in
some aspect of the criminal justice system -- with two
million in federal and state prisons and county jails, and
millions of others on probation, parole, or awaiting trial.
In about ten states, people convicted of felonies who have
served their time and have left prison, are nevertheless
denied the right to vote for life. More than 4.3 million
Americans have lost the right to vote for life; about 1.7
million of those disenfranchised are African Americans.
About 13 percent of all black men have lost the right 
to vote for their entire lives."

He concluded, "The moral challenge here is like that of 
the civil rights movement. In fact this is the moral challenge
of the day. We must all take a personal stance. The Rockefeller 
Drug laws are morally indefensible. It destroys families. It
destroys people. They must be overcome."

Assemblyman Stringer added his voice to those calling for
repealing the drug laws, citing growing public outrage over
their unfairness. Councilman Bill Perkins also voiced his
support for the campaign. He thanked the organizers of the
event, singling out the United New York Black Radical Congress. 
"I am honored to be associated with the Black Radical Congress" 
he said, "They are doing some great work in the community."

Many in the audience participated in the speak out portion
of the agenda, relating the horrors inflicted on themselves
and their families by the laws requiring mandatory sentencing 
and allowing judges no discretion.

Some speakers noted that over 2 million prisoners are 
housed in Republican districts and are counted in district
apportionment. Marable noted that three or four Republican
districts in New York state are prison districts, that is,
the majority of population in the districts are prisoners,
who can't vote.

There were many calls for concrete actions to help 
bring about change. The Black Radical Congress announced its
national campaign to make police brutality a federal offense
and gathered hundreds of signatures at the town hall meeting
from an enthusiastic crowd. Support was also announced for a
state-wide lobby in Albany on March 27 on the theme "Drop the
Rock." The Black Radical Congress is organizing a bus for the
lobby. Call 212-969-8801 for more information.

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