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Simpson Goes Forward With Anti-Violence Fund-Raiser Amid Controversy

June 28, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A shouting match between blacks supporting O.J. Simpson and a member of the Jewish Defense League erupted outside Simpson’s mansion Thursday night as an anti-violence fund-raiser was being held.

Guests who signed up were urged not to attend the fund-raiser, and critics denounced the event as a cynical and shameless attempt to rebuild his image.

A tuxedo-clad Simpson greeted guests and a handful of reporters inside his estate and said he didn’t understand the extent of protests.

``Who can be against stopping violence? This is about saving lives,″ he said. ``There have been 1,700 murders since Nicole and Ron and who cares about those people? This is about stepping in and helping those families.″

Simpson said he never considered whether his holding the event would cause controversy. ``It doesn’t matter,″ he added. ``Those people are going to complain no matter what I do.″

The event was organized by the Stop the Violence-Increase the Peace Foundation, a black group that works to stop gang violence and domestic abuse and is based in South Central Los Angeles.

``No way did I anticipate the level of hatred and the willingness to put forth so much energy against this,″ said Muhammad Nassardeen, a spokesman for the foundation. ``The people who are with the lynch-mob mentality against Mr. Simpson seem to see us as the people standing in the way of the noose.″

A handful of protesters were outside the mansion. One held a sign saying ``Hey O.J., Charity Begins At Home.″ And there was a shouting match between Irv Rubin of the Jewish Defense League and blacks yelling that Simpson was innocent.

Simpson, acquitted last year of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, pleaded no contest in 1989 to abusing his then-wife. He faces a September trial in a wrongful-death lawsuit that seeks to hold him responsible for the slayings.

Foundation board member, actress Paula Kelly, said she lost a film role because her name appeared on the invitation to the event. Her spokeswoman refused to say what role Kelly, who played attorney Liz Williams on TV’s ``Night Court,″ had been considering.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Simpson explained that he was holding the benefit because ``I’m against violence of any sort.″

But at least one women’s group and a representative for Ms. Simpson’s family have angrily denounced the event as a desperate attempt for positive publicity from a man trying to get back into the public’s good graces.

``There’s blood on the floor at Rockingham,″ said Tammy Bruce, who along with Ms. Simpson’s sister Denise Brown heads Women’s Progress Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to women and children’s rights. ``I find it unconscionable that anyone would feel comfortable walking into a house where she was in a torture chamber.″

Attorney Gloria Allred, spokeswoman for Ms. Simpson’s family, added, ``Mr. Simpson should not be used as a poster person for spousal abuse. He has not taken full responsibility for the violence he inflicted on Nicole.″

The foundation last week said about 500 people were invited. Suggested donations ranged from $100 to $10,000.

But the guests were receiving calls telling them not to go, Nassardeen said.

Simpson’s neighbors on Rockingham Avenue watched as flower deliveries arrived and police staked out the area.

``I think it’s a little late for him to start working for a cause,″ neighbor Anita Harris said. ``I think he should have done it a long time ago. And I’m not sure if it’s for real or not.″

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