By Destiny Gurrola
HARLEM, NY – Yusef A. Salaam, a member of the “Exonerated Five” —wrongly convicted 34 years ago in New York—acknowledged in a letter this past week addressed to Donald J. Trump that he knew Trump attacked him and others but never apologized after they were exonerated.
Salaam said Trump spent $85,000 in ads in The New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post and New York Newsday on May 1, 1989, and noted even after the exonerations, Trump said on CNN, “I hate these people and let’s all hate these people because maybe hate is what we need if we’re gonna get something done.”
The Salaam letter also addressed Trump’s persistence in inciting enemies against him, his peers, and his family despite the acknowledgment of the government of their wrongful conviction and their exoneration, noting Trump called the Central Park Five documentary “a one-sided piece of garbage” in 2013.
And, Salaam noted that, more than a decade after their exoneration, when asked how he felt after the group’s innocence was shown, Trump responded, “Innocent of what?”
The members of the Exonerated Five were awarded compensation in 2014 by the City of New York to help rebuild their lives but Salaam, in his letter, said he feels that Trump commenting “settling doesn’t mean innocence” shows even the acknowledgement from the city wasn’t enough for Trump to see five young Black and Latino men as nothing but criminals.
Salaam reacts in writing, “[We] all know who Donald J. Trump is—a man who seeks to deny justice and fairness for others, while claiming only innocence for himself.”
“Being wrongfully convicted as a teenager was an experience that changed my life drastically. Yet I am honored when people express how deeply they connect with my story,” Salaam writes as he reflects on his experience of being incarcerated as a young boy.
It is acknowledged in Salaam’s letter that many have experienced the same trauma that Salaam experienced every day in this country. Salaam writes, “My past is an example of systemic oppression imposed by the injustice system.”
Trump’s time in office is addressed when Salaam writes that “the problems our community faced when my name was splashed across the newspapers a generation ago—inadequate housing, underfunded schools, public safety concerns, and a lack of good jobs—became worse during Donald Trump’s time in office.”
Salaam’s message to Donald Trump: “In response to the multiple federal and state criminal investigations that you are facing, you responded by warning of ‘potential death and destruction,’ and by posting a photograph of yourself with a baseball bat, next to a photo of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. These actions, just like your actions leading up to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capital, are an attack on our safety.”
Noting Trump’s full-page ad from 34 years ago which stated, “CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS,” Salaam charges, “You were wrong then, and you are wrong now.”
Salaam adds, “The civil liberties of all Americans are grounded in the U.S. Constitution, and many of us fight every day to uphold those rights, even in the face of those like you who seek to obliterate them.”
Salaam promises, despite what Trump has done, there will be no reciprocation of this upon his indictment and facing criminal charges, noting, “Even though 34 years ago you effectively called for my death and the death of four other innocent children, I wish you no harm.”
“Rather, I am putting my faith in the judicial system to seek out the truth. I hope that you exercise your civil liberties to the fullest, and that you get what the Exonerated 5 did not get—a presumption of innocence, and a fair trial,” Salaam added.
If it is proven that Trump is guilty, Yusef writes, “I hope that you endure whatever penalties are imposed with the same strength and dignity that the Exonerated Five showed as we served our punishment for a crime we did not commit.”