Taking aim at the fund
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
When gun control advocates decided to seek out those they say are responsible for the dangerous propagation of firearms, they did not venture far to states where the National Rifle Association (NRA) holds major sway.
Many just took the subway – straight to midtown Manhattan.
Cerberus Capital Management, the hedge fund with headquarters at 875 Third Avenue, are as guilty as the criminals who sell guns on the black market and the legislators who refuse to fight for stricter gun control, said activists who converged at the firm’s offices this past month. Among many of those present were Northern Manhattan elected officials, community leaders, and individuals whose lives have been personally affected by gun violence.
Just one week after the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard which left 12 dead, Congressman Charles Rangel; Geoffrey Eaton, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Mid-Manhattan Branch; Jackie Rowe-Adams, co-founder of Harlem Mothers SAVE; Daniel Maree, founder of the Million Hoodies Movement; members of the Newtown Action Alliance and the Campaign to Unload; and other gun control activists gathered on Tues., Sept 24th.
Cerberus has a 94 percent stake in the Freedom Group (now called Remington Outdoor Company Inc.), which is responsible for the manufacture of high-capacity, military-style assault weapons like the Bushmaster used by Adam Lanza in the Newton massacre.
The Freedom Group is a result of a merger of several arms manufacturers, including Bushmaster; Cerberus bought into the Group in 2006.
After the Newtown massacre, many, including former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer, called on Cerberus to divest from the Freedom Group.
Cerberus announced last December that it would.
But protestors said Steve Feinberg, the firm’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, has not yet made good on that promise, and instead has likely been making money from its investment in the Freedom Group over the past nine months.
In his effort to combat gun violence, Maree, of the Million Hoodies Movement, has sought out those who facilitate the availability of firearms to the public. To that end, he was surprised to find himself in Midtown Manhattan, far away from any guns manufacturer.
“If you follow the money from the streets to how they got there, it would connect to Cerberus, who made commitments to divest, but they haven’t honored them.”
“We know, right in our own country, weapons of destruction are being made without regard to who’s being killed, and that’s one reason for it and that’s money,” said Congressman Rangel.
“In order for this movement to be successful, there’s got to be an economic component and a corporate responsibility component,” added Monte Frank of Newtown Action Alliance.
The Alliance is calling on Congress to promote gun reform by passing legislation requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases.
“It’s all part of changing our culture from one with open displays of firearms to a culture of peace. A huge part of that is changing the way companies do business.”
The group’s focus has led them to also zero in on companies like Starbucks and Staples, which allow for people to carry concealed weapons onto store property.
Moreover, as recently as January, the New York City teacher pension fund divested holdings in five publicly traded firearms manufacturers, for investments valued at $13.5 million.
Cerberus Capital Investments is privately traded.
Despite repeated requests, representatives for Cerberus issued no comment.
All five Borough Presidents sit on the Board of Trustees of the city’s pension fund—including Scott Stringer, who defeated Spitzer to win the Democratic nomination for City Comptroller, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
In a statement, the Public Advocate and Democratic mayoral candidate said, “Companies like Cerberus profit from the sale of deadly assault weapons and the NRA’s obstruction of commonsense gun control—all while our communities are victimized. Cerberus needs to honor its promise to the victims of Sandy Hook and to all Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by gun violence by ending its investment in this destructive industry.”
“If you’re contributing money to the lobbies that push against sensible gun control, we’re going to go after you,” promised Aaron Black, an organizer for the Campaign to Unload.
“If they don’t divest, we’ll go to their homes and let their neighbors know what they’ve been up to.”
One woman CEO Feinberg will have to deal with is Constance Malcolm, Ramarley Graham’s mother.
Ramarley Graham was an unarmed Bronx teen shot and killed in his family’s apartment by a police officer last year. Since then, Malcolm started Ramarley’s Call, a website dedicated to her son and fighting gun and police violence.
She did not know that one of the entities responsible for the production and sale of guns that end up on New York City streets would be in the middle of midtown.
“It’s sitting right here in my city and I didn’t even know it. It’s just amazing. I have no words.”
Though Malcolm and the families of the victims of the Newtown Massacre lost their loved ones in vastly different contexts, at the root of each tragedy is a gun.
“We have so much gun violence. When it’s not us against each other, it’s the cops killing us.”
For her, tighter gun control is a no-brainer as she thought of Adam Lanza, the mentally disturbed youth who used his mother’s stockpile of guns as his arsenal in the Newtown massacre.
“Violence is violence and it’s all bad. It’s just crazy.”
For more information on the Newton Action Alliance, please visit newtownaction.org.
For more on Harlem Mothers Save, please visit www.harlemmotherssave.webs.com.
For more information on the campaign, please visit www.unloadtheguns.com.