The New York City police were desperate to make an arrest for the rape and assault of a white woman as she jogged in Central Park in 1989. Then, they arrested five young men aged 14 to 16, and the city drew a sigh of relief. Donald Trump took part in the celebration in this way.
Then-playboy real estate developer, Trump took out a full-page ad with five words in huge bold black font against the newspaper’s white background, Yahoo News reported:
‘BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY.’
Actor Michael B. Jordan introduced the five honorees for their inaugural Roger Baldwin Courage Award and on behalf of director Ava DuVernay. The young men at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California’s 25th Annual Luncheon were: Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana.
When Yusef Salaam took the stage to accept his award, he introduced himself with a new name: “I am one of the Exonerated Five.” He lingered on the full-page ad taken out by the man currently occupying the White House.
Donald Trump took out a stark, violent, racist full-page, ad and our president supports his action to this day. Salaam said:
‘Korey (Wise) said it so well. He said, when Donald Trump took out that full-page ad, and put them in all of New York City’s newspapers, calling for our execution, he placed a bounty on our head.’
This was Trump’s “extreme response:”
‘‘It was horrific then. It’s horrific to hear it now.’ — @KenBurns is reminding everyone of Donald Trump’s extreme response to the Central Park Five case’
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 10, 2019
‘They had published our names, our phone numbers, and our addresses in New York City’s newspapers. Imagine the horror of that. Just step backwards once, to the 1950s—we would become modern-day Emmett Tills. It was almost as if they were trying to find someone from the darkest enclaves of society to come into our homes, drag us from our beds, and hang us from trees in Central Park.’
Before Salaam began his speech, actor Michael B. Jordon gave the introduction to the five honored men. In it he told what happened to the five young men:
‘It was East Coast news, but a familiar story to anyone growing up black in America. We didn’t know their names, but we knew their ages: 15, 14, 16—the same ages we were. They could be us.’
The woman had been left for dead. She remained in a coma, and when the victim awoke, she could not remember anything about what had happened during her assault, including her attacker. Jordon continued:
‘In 1989, police found the body of a young white woman in Central Park, covered in blood, and left for dead after a sexual assault. Weeks later, Trisha Meili awakened from a coma. She was unable to recall her attack. But the police had already been rounding up suspects, questioning black and brown teenagers who had been in Central Park that night. They focused their interrogation tactics on five boys in particular. Four of those teenagers did not know each other when they were arrested. I repeat, four of those boys did not know each other when they were arrested.’
Salaam cried as he gave his speech with extended pauses, but he continued:
‘I’m not ashamed to cry in front of you. These are tears of pain. These are tears of joy. We are the heroes of this story.’
He continued with their heart-breaking story:
‘After decades of being known as the Central Park Five, we thank Ava for acknowledging our humanity and telling our story with honesty and factual representation. We had to struggle to break the label that the media gave us. We stumbled forward, falling on our face at times.’
The media was not kind to the boys, referring to them as a “wolf pack.” Conservative Pat Buchanan wrote:
‘(The)he eldest of that wolf pack were tried, convicted and hanged in Central Park, by June 1, and the 13- and 14-year-olds were stripped, horsewhipped, and sent to prison, the park might soon be safe again for women.’