Last week, Yusef Salaam, one of the “Central Park Five” who were wrongly convicted for the 1989 rape and beating of a white jogger in Central Park, won a seat on the New York City Council representing a central Harlem district. (Congratulations, Yusef!) Although his conviction was eventually overturned based on DNA evidence, as were those of the four other young Black and Latino men, Salaam, arrested when he was only fifteen, was imprisoned for almost seven years before being exonerated.
The crime dominated the New York headlines, inflaming racial tensions as police rounded up Black and Latino men and boys for interrogation, the “usual suspects” as it were. Less than two weeks after the crime, Donald Trump, then at the height of his fame as a real estate tycoon, took out large newspaper ads in the form of an open letter and helped turn public opinion against Yusef and the other four suspects.
According to Trump, New York families of all races “have had to give up the pleasure of a leisurely stroll in the park at dusk” because of “roving thousands of wild criminals.” He claimed politicians were too concerned about police brutality to allow the “neighborhood cop” to protect the community, resulting in a “reckless and dangerously permissive atmosphere that allows criminals of every age to beat and rape a helpless woman.” He concluded by saying “these muggers and murderers should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”
Donald Trump Played a Significant Role in the “Central Park Five” Case and is Long Overdue for Some of His Own Medicine.
Well, isn’t that rich? Donald Trump talking about the rape of a helpless woman! As for advocating “execution,” maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he mistook them for five Black and Latino chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff. God bless! Of all the wealthy New Yorkers to make an investment in the wrongful conviction of Black and Latino men, what a coincidence that it was none other than Donald Trump! Long before he championed the “birther” movement, called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, and referred to Nazis and white nationalists as “very fine people,” he was already the champion of an ugly, racist cause. And doesn’t the phrase, “should be forced to suffer” seem a disturbing harbinger of the sadistic anger he’s displayed since his 2020 defeat? There’s hardly anyone left in America who Trump doesn’t hate and threaten with retribution should he be reelected, except for his MAGA followers, of course.
Not surprisingly, despite their exoneration, Trump continued to claim the five men were criminals who deserved to be locked up. (He just loves the notion of locking people up!) Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he is a master of projection: he himself is the “wild criminal,” and because he’s a criminal, he assumes everyone else is; he accuses people of fraud and corruption because he knows he’s a corrupt fraud to the core; he tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 election and, sure enough, he now accuses President Biden and the DOJ of election interference; he claims he and his MAGA followers are the victims of a police state, but makes no secret of his desire to create a police state if he’s reelected. The list goes on.
How fitting that Trump now faces 91 indictments and may yet go to prison, never mind having lost much of the Trump “empire,” a business shown to have been built on lies and fraud. Talk about comeuppance and getting a taste of your own medicine!
The Gate of the Exonerated, the only addition to Central Park’s official entrance names since the 19th century, commemorates the experience of the Exonerated Five and honors all of those wrongly convicted of crimes.