“When you’re walking through hell, you gotta keep on walking.”
On Thursday January 17, a rally and march took place in Foley Square demanding reparations for the unlawful imprisonment of the Central Park 5 (CP5), 23 years ago.
What is the story of the Central Park 5?
To quote briefly from the informational material given out at the rally “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.”
To be a little more specific, without giving unnecessarily graphic details, in 1989 a 28-year-old investment banker named Trisha Meili went for a jog in Central Park. She “went running from her Upper East Side apartment through Central Park that evening, as she often did. Partway through her run, she was assaulted on a lonely stretch of park road and was severely beaten with a heavy object, stripped naked, raped and left for dead. When she was found a few hours later in the woods near 92nd Street, she was close to death from hypothermia and blood loss, and her skull had been so badly fractured that one eye was out of its socket.” (View source)
Due to the demand for justice for the rape of an affluent white, female, investment banker, “police quickly arrested a handful of young men and eventually got Santana along with Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson and Kharey Wise to confess on video tape. They also implicated a fifth suspect — Yusef Salaam.” (View source)
The teens had barely any chance of being proven innocent in 1989. Even without this crime New York City was very racially divided back then. Add the raping of a successful white female investment banker by the hands of 5 black and Latino youth… It was practically an open-and-shut case. The media vilified the teens before any judgement had even been passed. “The teenagers were repeatedly described as a ‘wolf pack’ engaged in a ritual gang activity called ‘wilding.’” (View source)
Even Donald Trump got involved in the media frenzy with “full-page ads in four city newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty so they could be executed.” (View source) Mind you the ads called for a “reinstatement of the death penalty” to find justice for suspects in a non-murder case.
As far as the evidence from the crime scene itself “Semen found in the victim’s body did not match any of the defendants, and no traces of her blood, hair or skin could be found on any of them. (In fact, even in 1989 the crime-scene analysis indicated that all the DNA evidence found on Meili’s body came from a single, unknown person.) So the entire case rested on an incoherent web of confessions that were contradictory on nearly every detail: The boys could not agree on what Meili looked like, what she was wearing, where or when she had been assaulted, or who had done what to her. As Dwyer notes, the chronology of events that police provided to journalists didn’t make sense, and it even provided a likely alibi: Meili’s running route would have brought her to the place where she was assaulted around 9:20 p.m., when the defendants had been seen by multiple witnesses near the reservoir, about half a mile further south.”
None of this mattered though as they were all found guilty. They were later exonerated when “in 2002 Matias Reyes, a serial rapist with multiple convictions, confessed to the crime, providing specifics that no one else could have known and that closely fit the forensic evidence. (He was already serving a life sentence and had little to lose.) His DNA, which police and prosecutors had in their files all along, was a perfect match with the samples found on Meili.” (View source)
“Each of the five men are seeking $50 million in damages, but their lawyers said so far the city has refused to settle.” (View source from April 19, 2011)
Note the date of the last source article. The five accused adults have still not received compensation for the injustice they experienced. They have at least been proven innocent though.
For a short video about the story feel free to watch this from Democracy Now!
The rally on January 17th took place because of a lack of compensation for false imprisonment.
Here is Yusef Salaam addressing the crowd.
Kevin Richardson spoke next.
Raymond Santana was next.
The fourth speaker.
The fifth speaker,Viola Plummer, who is also the Chair of the December 12 Movement spoke next.
A transcription of her speak-out:
“When you’re walking through hell, whatcha gotta do?! (crowd responds: You gotta keep on walking.) You gotta keep on walking! Because, they owe us. They owe us. They owe us, trillions of dollars for what they did to these young black, and Latino, men. They owe us! But, the courts will drag this on… If we let ‘em.
If we let them! Because we in hell, right?! We gotta keep walking! They will never, ever come to the table unless we keep on walking. When they look out and see the doubling and tripling of us on the path through hell…they come to the table. Do y’all hear me? They come to the table. They’re gonna lose. There’s no question about that. They’re gonna lose, but what they’re attempting to do is to drag these young black men, and their families, through hell by themselves.
They owe y’all. They owe you! They owe us! Because they (points to the CP5) are us. You understand me?! See them! See her! See him! They’re us! And unless we demand that they paid… They wont get paid.
They will drag it until Bloomberg reaps as many billions of dollars from our blood that he can. And then they’ll put another Bloomberg, whatever name, okay, in his seat, and drag that through. But we aint gonna let ‘em right?!
Because Yusef said, When you’re in hell, whatcha gotta do?! (crowd responds: You gotta keep on walking.)
So we gotta keep on walking. But when we’re walking we gotta multiply. We gotta pull that brother, we gotta pull that sister, who realize we in hell. And we gotta have the patience with our brothers and sisters who don’t know we’re in hell. We have to have the patience with our brothers and sisters. Because what they did to these young black, and Latino, men…! We know and we think everybody does, you gotta keep on walking.
So it becomes our responsibility to make sure that if there’s 8 million people in this city, that at least 2 million black, Latino and Asian people got to know they owe us. That’s right!
So we gotta pull them. We gotta pull them together. We gotta walk through hell together. We started walking in ’89 right in the schools, in the streets…”
(To the CP5) “We love you. We owe you. We will walk ’til hell freezes over.”
The sixth speaker gave another very impassioned speech.
Read it below:
“The culture that pushes us forward is the culture that we develop as struggle. That’s the culture that pushes us forward to victory. When we said ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ it was in the middle of struggle. When we said ‘What’s coming? War!’ That was in the middle of struggle. When we created ‘No justice! No peace!’ that was in the middle of struggle.
As I’m glad brother Yusef passed that on. When you in hell. Keep on walking. Keep on walking. Keep on agitating. Keep on moving. ‘Cuz only way you gonna get outta hell is to keep pushin’ the envelope. So we pushin’ the envelope against the Bloomberg administration and Raymond ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Kelly.
We pushing the envelope to wake up New York that they’re not gonna stop, on their own. Some of us think, it’s gonna pass. Like somebody thinks the economy is gonna revive itself. It’s not gonna revive itself. They’ll come with some new tricks but it’s not gonna revive itself. They’re gonna write off millions of people and say they don’t exist anymore, and then say there’s been a revival. When millions are out of work, in jail, unemployed, impoverished, in the hospital sick, miseducated…
So the Central Park 5 is a fester on this system and we gonna pop it. But you gotta stay in the streets. This is the period to be in the streets and to wake folks up.”
“Everybody feels the pain. Mothers, fathers, sisters. When they criminalized these brothers, they criminalized the families, and criminalized the neighborhood. They criminalized our community. And so we’re gonna get this criminality up off our backs. A supporter here said ‘we wanna make sure they apologize.’
I don’t care if they apologize. They ain’t gonna apologize. I don’t want them, they can never apologize. But these brothers gotta get paid. The lawyer Conrad Linn once said that Malcolm [X] used to say ‘There’s only two things this system understands: Money and violence.’ Those are the only two things they understand, money and violence. These brothers got to get paid.
We don’t want their phony apology. We want compensation for them. We want reparations for them. And we even know when that happens it’s not enough! But it’s a beginning. Because when you’re walking through hell, you gotta keep on walking.”
“And our leaders, some of them who are no longer with us, ’cause they gave their lives (for our struggle) used to always say that to us. They used to say ‘Never give up! Never give up!’ ‘Cause you never know how close you are to liberation. So when you in hell you gotta keep on.
They always talk about to be in America is to be in hell. I don’t know how many television shows, how many movies, how many DVDs, how many songs they put out, how many fashions and new tricks they put on us. From Facebook to Twitter!”
“As they used to say, in the South, we gonna keep on walking. We gonna keep on marching until we get to the promised land which is our liberation.”
Attorney Roger Wareham, who is representing a few members of the Central Park 5 spoke briefly as well.
Then the marching began. First the march just made its way around Foley Square through the park and circled the fountain.
Next the march went for walk around the block and then proceeded to take the streets.
Finally the march arrived back at Foley Square and the protest attendees lined up in single-file facing the courts.
Councilman Charles Barron addressed the crowd briefly and said the following of a resolution in the works:
“Remember that resolution that we had that the city should support the paying of the Central Park 5 several years out of court. Well I want to let you know because of your movement in the streets, and because of what we’re doing inside, we’re gonna get a hearing on that resolution on February 7th.
The city council, the black, Latino, and Asian caucus. We got all 27 members of the caucus to sign on to the resolution.”
The final speaker was Brother Shaka from the People’s Survival Program 213 Unity of Action.
Next the group posed for a photo by the fountain and then disbanded prepared to come back for another demonstration on February 19th.
For those interested. In December of 2012, a documentary came out telling the story of the Central Park 5. You can see it at the IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas. I believe this is by the West 4 train station.
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