HARLEM — Three days after Police Comissioner Ray Kelly slammed local leaders for being "shockingly silent" on the scourge of recent gun violence in communities of color, the Reverend Al Sharpton demanded Kelly make better efforts to include those leaders in policymaking decisions.
He specifically challenged Ray Kelly to respond to requests he says local leaders have made for a gun violence summit that would explore solutions beyond the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy in the Saturday morning speech.
“He needs to come to the table and meet with community leaders, even some that disagree with stop and frisk, and let us talk about how we can work to stem the violence,” Sharpton said to a crowded room at the Central Harlem headquarters of his civil rights organization, National Action Network, on West 145th Street.
The reverend’s request comes on the heels of a rash of recent shootings, with 17 gun attacks on July 4 alone, and last weekend's triple homicide in Queens and the wounding of a 3-year-old boy shot in a Brooklyn playground.
“[The city is] clearly in need of a new collective strategy,” Sharpton said. “If stop and frisk was working, we wouldn’t have had these shootings.”
Citing the commissioner's recent comments, Sharpton accused Kelly of equating protests by civil rights groups against stop and frisk to an endorsement of gun violence.
“To fight violence does not mean that I agree in any way with stop and frisk,” he said. “To fight stop and frisk does not mean that I am not opposed to all of the violence, and want to see what is necessary to be done to stop the violence. This is not either/or. This is both/and.”
Additionally, Sharpton called on recording artists that have glorified what he called “thug life” in the minds of African American youth, to come forward and denounce gun violence.
“Some of these young folks have made these artists rich. You owe it to these young folks to help save our community,” he said.
Jamie Bland, 42, traveled from Paterson, New Jersey to hear Sharpton speak. The grandmother of two agrees with Sharpton that stop and frisk is an unfair policy.
“Now when your kids leave home, you’re worried about the police,” Bland said. “If they say the wrong thing, who knows what they’ll do to them.”