From the Central Park Five to a Trump Indictment By David W. Marshall

April 3, 2023

david w. marshall

( - Kindred spirits will always be drawn to one another. Therefore, positive-driven people will be attracted to the strong motivation and integrity which comes from other positive-driven people. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. When the written and spoken rhetoric by divisive-driven people is used to promote intimidation, hate and animosity toward those in society who are considered to be inferior, it draws the attention and passionate reactions of other like-minded individuals.

Words are powerful, therefore hate filled words have historically been used as an effective rallying cry for racial violence. The motivation behind hate-filled words is a distinct part of American history where the threat of Black political power, the social mobility of Black people or just being Black has led to deadly actions by white lynch mobs. Many Black massacres in the U.S. included widespread destruction of property, deaths and the exile of Black residents from their communities. It takes one person to make a false accusation motivated by racial hatred, and it has led to lynching, massacres, and the wrongful imprisonment of Black people. The pattern throughout history is clear. In late May 1921, a Black teenager was falsely accused of assaulting a white woman in Tulsa, the result was the Tulsa massacre. In January 1923, a mob of over 200 white men attacked the Black community in Rosewood, Florida, killing over 30 Black men, woman and children, burning the town to the ground, and forcing all survivors to permanently flee Rosewood. It began with a young white woman claiming she was assaulted by a Black man despite there being no evidence against the man.

Yusef Salaam was one of the five New York teenagers who was wrongly convicted and imprisoned for the 1989 rape and assault of a white woman jogging in Central Park. The five Black and Latino teens were beaten and coerced by New York City police into falsely confessing to the rape and assault. As a 15 years old teenager, Salaam was arrested but eventually exonerated after being imprisoned for over six years for a crime he did not commit. In early 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist, admitted that he alone was responsible for the attack. When referring to the false accusations from those in law enforcement, Salaam said, “The overwhelming feeling that I have toward the police and prosecutors is that they knew that we had not done this crime. They knew it, but yet they chose to move forward…..the people who are suppose to uphold the law, it is criminal when they do the exact opposite of that.” Salaam no longer refers to the men as the Central Park Five, but the Exonerated Five.

Dr. Yusef Salaam’s remarkable journey took him from being wrongfully imprisoned as a teen to becoming an award-winning motivational and transformational speaker, thought leader, trainer, New York Times Best Selling author and coach. His time in prison was not wasted. He used it to not only find his purpose in life, but to become a writer. While Salaam is currently a prison reform activist who has formally announced his candidacy for the New York City Council seat in Harlem’s 9th District, yet he will forever be tied to Donald Trump.  As Trump runs for president for a third time, we should never forget how he led the charge against the Exonerated Five with his divisive and hate-filled rhetoric. Now that Donald Trump himself is indicted, for a brief period, the former president will become an ordinary citizen when he is formally booked for criminal charges.

Thirty-four years after the arrest of Yusef Salaam, Donald Trump will be fingerprinted and photographed for a mug shot like Salaam and the other members of the Exonerated 5. He will be read the standard Miranda warning like every other person who has ever gone through the booking process. While the indictment of a former president is a sad moment in our nation’s history, it becomes a vindication of the principle that no person is above the law. His arrest in Manhattan has great significance. Before the five teenagers were convicted in 1989, Trump spent $85,000 on a full page ad that ran in all four of New York’s major newspapers. The ad was a hate-filled message which called for the return of the death penalty in response to the attack. For a man who has a lot to say, he never issued an apology or any acknowledgement of their innocence after the men were cleared. The ad ran in part:

“Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate those muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffered…Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will…How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits?”

In a 2019 interview, Salaam said, “We were convicted because of the color of our skin. People thought the worst of us,” he said. “And this is all because of prominent New Yorkers-especially Donald Trump.” He added, “I look at Donald Trump, and I understand him as a representation of a symptom of America.” Many of Trump’s supporters will continue to vote for him despite two impeachments, one insurrection and now a criminal indictment. At times, his divisive hate-filled rhetoric connects with the motivations behind the death of Emmett Till and the massacres in Tulsa and Rosewood. The motivation to seek the death of a Black person when it comes to a Black man attacking a white female is a symptom of America even when the accusation is known not to be true. Trump’s arrest may be violently opposed by many of his supporters, but to see that Trump may likely walk into the same courtroom where the Exonerated Five were falsely convicted is priceless.

David W. Marshall is founder of the faith based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book “God Bless Our Divided America”. He can be reached at