One of the “Central Park Five” is running for City Council.

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Yusef Salaam is one of the “Exonerated Five,” as they are now known, the teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. After fighting for his freedom, the Harlem native is ready to fight for his hometown.

Their convictions were overturned in 2002 and in December saw their name etched in stone on a gate to the park.


Salaam, who spent seven years behind bars, is running in Council District 9, representing the heart of Harlem, where he grew up.

“We are here now to chart a new path forward,” he said during a speech at the old Harlem YMCA on 135th Street.

Decades before he became president, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad calling for the Central Park Five to face the death penalty, which Salaam referenced in his announcement.

“In a country that’s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, they saw the color of our skin and said ‘Guilty, guilty, guilty,’” he said. “It would have been OK if Donald Trump had taken out a full-page ad when we were found to be innocent.”

In 2002, a judge vacated the convictions of Salaam and the four other members of the Central Park Five after the Manhattan district attorney’s office filed a motion with a new theory of the case — and a different suspect. Prosecutors said that after conducting a new investigation, they no longer believed that Salaam and the others had committed the crime.

Since then, Salaam has written a memoir, become a motivational speaker and has advocated for criminal justice reform. His case has also been documented in books, a documentary and a Netflix miniseries.

Salaam is challenging Harlem Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan for her seat. The incumbent councilmember did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But after Salaam first shared that he was considering a run last fall, Richardson Jordan said in a statement to the news site Patch: “I think we have enough millionaires in office already. That is part of the problem.”