At only 15 years old, Yusef Salaam, along with four others — Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson — were wrongfully jailed for raping a white woman in 1989. Salaam spent seven years behind years and since then has dedicated his life to social justice. He is now releasing a young adult book based on his experience titled Punching the Air.
In an interview with The Guardian, Salaam, now 46, reflected on that horrific moment in his life and specifically on our current president.
In May of 1989, just a few weeks after the children were accused of the brutal crime, Trump placed a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty in reaction to the high profile case.
“Had his ad taken full effect we would have been hanging from trees in Central Park,” Salaam said. “People wanted our blood running in the streets.”
Salaam also added, “I would tell anybody and everybody about what happened to me and how Trump rushed to judge us.”
In 2014, all five of the men were exonerated and eventually received a $41 million settlement from the city of New York. Another man, Matias Reyes, eventually confessed to the crime.
However, as recent as 2018, Trump refused to apologize for calling for their death, saying, “They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein, and you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we’ll leave it at that.”
Punching the Air will be released on September 1, 2020.
The Guardian: Yusef Salaam: ‘Trump would have had me hanging from a tree in Central Park’