† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, and author of The School-to- Prison Pipeline: Education, Discipline and Racialized Double Standards, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice and Considering Hate, is co-founder of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm CST.
Central Park Five
by nancy a heitzeg
If you haven’t seen the Ken Burns documentary, you must. The Central Park Five represents criminal injustice in horrific microcosm — racialized hysteria, media sensationalism, heavy-handed police practices, coerced confession and wrongful conviction. And eventual exoneration — still denied.
There is a seemingly infinite list of reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be elected to anything – but his brutal, dictatorial approach to matters of “law and order” will be sufficient here. Threats to jail his political opponents, a lack of regard for the barest of constitutional guarantees, and a commitment to mob vengeance have been on display throughout his campaign, But they are best revealed — both then and now – in his approach to the Central Park Five.
Let it be said:
Yusef Salaam of the Central Park 5: Trump ‘Unfit to Be President’
“Salaam now says that he once again has to defend himself to Trump’s “fans” who still believe that he is guilty based on the Republican candidate’s word—despite his exoneration. Despite the tens of millions in restitution paid by New York City. Not only does he have to relive the trauma of being jailed and convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, but, Salaam says, he is truly afraid of what a Trump presidency would mean.
“In the first debate, Trump said that stop and frisk, which was ruled unconstitutional, he said those were practices and policies that worked,” Salaam notes. “And he says he wants to bring that back across the country. That makes me scared. I’m saying I’m scared because I know what this guy is capable of.
“This is the same person who spent his money as a common citizen to ask that teenagers be given the death penalty,” Salaam continues. “Now he’s seeking the top office of the country. If he did that to us back then—not affluent blacks like Russell Simmons or 50 Cent—what does that say for the least of us? The reality is that even faced with evidence, he won’t admit that he was wrong. A lot of the people being shot today [by police] are the common people, like I was. Who do you think Donald Trump will bully?”