The Washington Post

Russell Simmons offered to pay for Zuccotti Park cleanup: Do celebrities help or hurt Occupy Wall Street?

Kanye West visits the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in Zuccotti Park. (Andrew Burton/AP)

As Occupy Wall Street demonstrators camped out in Zuccotti Park were threatened with eviction to allow cleaning Thursday, Russell Simmons stepped in to offer his help:

“Dear [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg — I will pay for cleanup of Zuccotti Park to avoid confrontation. I don’t wanna go to jail but I will be there ready!”

It did not come to that. The private owners of the park cancelled the cleaning and the hip-hop mogul wasn’t taken to the clink.

Simmons has been a very vocal supporter of the movement, but his celebrity endorsement is not sitting well with all involved. The Los Angeles Times spoke to one protester on the day Simmons, Kanye West and Rev. Al Sharpton visited in New York:

“‘Sharpton and all these guys — are you kidding me?” said [Reena] Walker, who accused them of using Occupy Wall Street to bolster their profiles while perpetuating things the movement eschews, such as party politics, consumerism and sexism. ‘We don't want to be used and co-opted. This is not a game.’ ”

Walker later said (via the LA Times), “Once the cops come in here and start beating heads, where are they going to be?’ ” Another protestor responded, “If they're going to come down now, bring us some money.”

Al Sharpton and Russell Simmons at Zuccotti Park. (Russell Simmons Twitter.)

“I am part of the 100% the people lack healthcare education and opportunity and they are my people therefore I lack those things,” he explained.

Of course, Simmons doesn’t literally lack these things. The entrepreneur is worth a reported $340 million.

Simmons has also responded to critics of West, who visited the park wearing a gold chain and an expensive Givenchy shirt.

“You can ask why I am there and why Kanye is there. We’re there because we are impassioned people who want to support this cause to give other people the opportunities we have gotten,” Simmons told Fox News. “A celebrity is valuable and some of them realize it and loan their celebrity to things they believe in.”

Simmons is not the only celebrity to take up the Occupy cause. Penn Badgley, Tim Robbins and Michael Moore visited the NYC camp, while Samuel L. Jackson lent his support in Los Angeles. And each time these celebs made a visit, it made headlines.

Do you think celebrities help or hurt a movement like Occupy Wall Street? Tell us in the comments.


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