‘How the Tables Have Turned’: Yusef Salaam Who Trump Called to be Executed As a Teen Wins New York City Council Primary While Former POTUS’s Legal Troubles Pile Up

Yusef Salaam, a member of the Central Park Five and now a high-profile contender for the New York City Council, is being celebrated for his win in the council primary as people take notice of his newfound social and political standing compared to a former president who once called for his death and is currently swamped in several legal battles.

Salaam, alongside four other Black and Hispanic youth, was falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman jogging through Central Park in 1989 when he was a teenager. Former President Donald Trump went to great lengths to incriminate them in the public eye after taking out full-page ads in multiple local newspapers to encourage the state of New York to adopt the death penalty specifically for this case.

Yusef Abdus Salaam Publishes Ad in Response to Donald Trump
Yusef Abdus Salaam (left) one of the five teenagers wrongfully accused of raping and severely battering a woman in 1989, published a mock ad in response to a full-page ad that Donald Trump (right) that year. (Photos: Getty Images)

All five boys spent between six and 13 years in prison. Salaam served nearly seven years. The accused would have spent more time behind bars if it wasn’t for the confession of Matias Reyes, who came clean and admitted his wrongdoing in 2002. DNA testing also conclusively found no link between Salaam and the other four boys and the victim, who was beaten unconscious during the attack and remembered nothing of it.

Each was exonerated of the crime and freed, leading to them subsequently being declared the Exonerated Five. They were awarded a $41 million settlement by the state of New York in 2014, even though the state admitted no wrongdoing.

In 2019, Trump stated that he wouldn’t apologize for the damning advertisements he published just 30 years prior. Now people are finding some karmic satisfaction in Salaam’s shot up the ladder after his big win for office and the former president’s descent into some stormy legal straits.

“The very definition of poetic justice,” one commenter posted.

“To want to represent the city that abused you… is to show grace like no other,” one Twitter user commented. “Never let a person, a system, or a city define you.”

“Sometimes Karma takes a long time because she has such a large address book,” one person wrote on Twitter. “This is so wonderful.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King also extended her congrats to Salaam alongside a quote by her father, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Though Salaam has no political experience, something he hasn’t shied away from telling voters, he racked up more than 50 percent of votes, according to election night results from the New York City Board of Elections.

As for the other candidates, which included two New York state Assembly members Inez Dickens and Al Taylor, Dickens earned 25 percent of the vote, and Taylor gained 14 percent. Although the incumbent, Kristin Richardson Jordan, dropped out of the race, she remained on the ballot and received 9 percent of the vote. All were vying to become the Democratic candidate for the council seat representing Harlem.

“This campaign has been about those who have been counted out, those who have been forgotten,” Salaam said to supporters after celebrating his win. “This campaign has been about our Harlem community, who has been pushed into the margins of life and made to believe that they were supposed to be there. What has happened in this campaign has restored my faith in knowing that I was born for this. … I am here because, Harlem, you believed in me.”

Salaam even commented on Donald Trump’s indictment in New York earlier this year on Twitter.

He also posted a mock ad on Twitter on the day of Trump’s historic arraignment in that case that closely mimicked one of the full-page ads Trump took out when Salaam was arrested more than 20 years ago.

As for his platform, Salaam noted his shared objectives and platforms with his fellow council contenders during his campaign. His campaign is centered on equity and the empowerment of marginalized groups; housing, environmental and economic justice; safety and human infrastructure, according to his website.

However, he says his high-profile experience with the justice system and his longtime advocacy for these community issues give him a distinct edge over his competitors.

“I have no track record in politics,” Salaam said in an earlier debate. “I have a great track record in the 34 years of the Central Park jogger case in fighting for freedom, justice and equality.”

Salaam would be one of the first Muslims to serve on the city council if he’s elected. General elections for the New York City Council will be held on Nov. 7.

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