Twenty-one years ago, on April 19, 1989, five innocent Black and Latino teenage boys were captured and arrested by NYPD for the rape and beating of a white woman. She was an investment banker jogging in Central Park. Before they went to trial, newspaper headlines and television news broadcasts condemned them. They were convicted and spent from 6 to 13 years in prison in a case reminiscent of the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama 1931.
"I was 14 years old," Raymond Santana explained at the citywide justice rally for the Central Park 5 held in Foley Square amid downtown courthouses on Monday, April 19. "They called us animals 'wilding,' but we knew we were innocent, and we held our heads up. We lost many years, and we are still trying to catch up. This is not just about us. Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury and Eleanor Bumpers were murdered by police. There are a lot more people going through what we did."
City Councilman Charles Barron stated, "They should be glad that we are still holding these rallies and trying to pass new legislation. We have got to push Mayor Bloomberg to stop stalling and compensate these young men who spent their youth in prison on trumped-up charges. The city has paid known drug dealers in civil cases. It has been too long; this is the real crime.'
Santana's sister Joanna said, "When we went to court back then, a Guardian Angel spit on me. I had always thought they helped people. Everyone was against us, but we always knew the truth would come out."
Ms. Santana designed the T-shirt worn by all the family members. "The shirts say, 'In God we trust,' just like the sign in the courtroom. But we really trust in God. he brought us through this and kept us strong."
Omowale Clay, spokesman of the December 12th Movement, said, "Without any physical evidence, the NYPD and the district attorney's office, namely fiction crime writer Linda Fairstein, railroaded five young boys to further their own careers. They spent a total of 40 years in prison. Even Donald Trump exploited them by taking out full-page ads in the major newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty for their case just to promote his own name. The police knew they were innocent, but they never really investigated the crime. Any Black or Latino boys would do."
"Matias Reyes, serving time for another rape and murder committed after the jogger attack, finally confessed to the crime in 2002. His was the only DNA found at the crime scene. The damage done to these men must be repaired now! We demand justice. We cannot let them criminalize our youth without a fight. We are all the Central Park 5," Clay continued.
Kharey Wise, who spent 13 years in prison, made a brief statement thanking all the people who supported them through the 21 years. "We were exonerated, and we want compensation for the years they stole from us."
Kevin Richardson could barely speak through his tears. "It's usual to see a grown man cry, but we have been through so much. It was torture. We are putting our lives back together and taking care of our families. Thank you all for standing by us."
The civil case against New York City for the wrongful conviction of the Central Park 5 has been in court or over six years.
"Justice for these innocent young men is long overdue," said Clay.