Nearly thirty years have passed since a group of teenagers were wrongfully imprisoned for brutally attacking and raping a 28-year-old woman in Central Park.
The group of boys, now known as the Central Park 5, were interrogated by police after being deprived of “food, drink or sleep for more than 24 hours,” Yusef Salaam writes in an article for the Washington Post.
Salaam recounts how, back in 1989, he and three of the boys — all black and Latino — falsely confessed to the crime under duress. “Though we were innocent,” he writes, “we spent our formative years in prison, branded as rapists.”
At the time, Donald Trump spent $85,000 on a full-page ad in four newspapers across the city of New York, which read “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”
— Raquel Cepeda (@RaquelCepeda) October 7, 2016
The Central Park 5 were exonerated in 2002 — after spending 13 years in prison — when Matias Reyes confessed to raping the woman and DNA evidence proved the same.
Donald Trump, who is now the presidential nominee of a major political party stands by his initial statement on the Central Park 5.
In a statement he made to CNN last week, the GOP nominee said, “They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”
Salaam writes, the fact that Trump stands by his dangerous claims even now is “further proof of his bias, racism and inability to admit that he’s wrong.”
In some ways, I feel like I’m on trial all over again. Like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, young men who were killed and then crucified in the media, I know what it is to be a young black man without a voice. Even though we were found innocent by a court of law, we are still guilty in the court of public opinion. That brings a certain kind of stress.
Trump has run a violently racist campaign over the last 16 months. He has targeted black Americans, Mexicans, undocumented immigrants, and Muslims, while calling for “law and order,” and an increase in policing.
He has proudly suggested that racialized policing tactics like broken windows and stop and frisk policies be reinstated in the inner cities of Chicago and New York, in order to “Make America Safe Again.” But make America safe for whom?
“Black people across America know that because of the color of our skin, we are guilty before proven innocent,” Salaam writes. “As a result, sometimes we lose the best years of our lives. Sometimes we lose our actual lives. We must not let this man ascend to the highest office in the land when he has always proven that he lets neither facts nor humanity lead his steps.”