As the civil case for justice for the Central Park 5 proceeds in the Federal Court House at 500 Pearl St. in lower Manhattan on Thursday, Jan. 17, the heat turns up in the street. On this same day, the December 12th Movement has called for a massive protest under the theme “Black Nation, Black Nationalism and Pan Africanism or Perish,” to be held one block away at Foley Square at 4 p.m., calling for the long-overdue justice and reparations.
Many view this critical case as a microcosm of the systemic oppression of the Black and Latino communities. Five young men– Kharey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Antron McCray–were wrongfully convicted 23 years ago in the brutal rape of a white investment banker dubbed “The Central Park Jogger” case. The teens spent 6 to 13 years in prison. The protest is also in resistance to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy as a violation of the human rights of Black and Latino men.
At a recent forum in Harlem, spokesperson Omowale Clay declared, “In 2013, our people must have unity in action. We must push for self-reliance and self-determination, and become our own liberators. Every aspect of our lives is under attack. The only way we can fight and win is together and in the streets. We will get reparations for these young brothers now!”
The case has gained momentum in the past few months during the latest court hearings as community activists have mobilized to fill the courtroom. The New York City Police Department and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration have relentlessly stalled any progress on this blatantly open-and-shut case of police abuse and injustice. Serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, the only DNA found at the crime scene was his, and the five men have been exonerated. Yet, they still refuse to admit any wrongdoing.
More and more people are demanding the case be settled, particularly since the recent screenings of “The Central Park Five,” a documentary created by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon. A Daily News op-ed piece on Dec. 24 demanded the case be resolved as quickly as possible, and NYC Comptroller John Liu recently held a press conference urging a settlement.
Even former Assistant District Attorney Linda Fairstein, who called the shots in the original case, felt the need to come out to the last court hearing. Fairstein had never shown her face in any court proceedings since the five teenagers went to prison on false charges with no physical evidence.