Kevin Richardson, one of the men known as the Central Park Five, can’t wait for the day President Donald Trump leaves office.
“It will be a great day,” Richardson told Newsweek.
Richardson, 46, is one of the five Black and Hispanic men who were wrongly convicted in the Central Park jogger case. Under intense pressure to find the culprits, police arrested teenagers Richardson, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Antron McCray.
Fueling public outrage, Trump took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the five to be hanged. “Bring Back The Death Penalty, Bring Back Our Police!” the ad demanded.
The men all served years behind bars, but they’re now known as The Exonerated Five had their convictions vacated when DNA evidence linked a serial rapist to the crime.
Last year, after Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series When They See Us drew attention to the case again, Trump refused to apologize to the men and continued to maintain that they are guilty.
They came up in last week’s final presidential debate when Joe Biden attacked Trump over his treatment of the five men.
“This is the guy who in the Central Park Five, five innocent Black kids, he continued to push for making sure that they got the death penalty,” Biden said. “None of them, none of them were guilty of the crimes that were suggested.”
Trump responded by calling himself the “least racist person in this room” and later claimed that “not since Abraham Lincoln has anybody done what I’ve done for the Black community.”
Trump “is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history,” Biden noted, adding that the president “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”
Richardson told Newsweek anyone who questions that needs to “do their research.”
“I don’t think they really realize what this man has done, even prior to his four years [in office],” he said. “We have people that are still stuck in their own ways. And somehow they’re trying to justify or not recognize what this man has done to The Exonerated Five and our families.
“To go on record and say that you have done more for the Black community since Abraham Lincoln is flat out wrong. I just think it’s blasphemy.”
Richardson explained that Trump’s comments in the debate “struck a nerve” and prompted him to post on Instagram, urging people to familiarize themselves with the case. If it was up to Trump, the caption said, “we wouldn’t be here today!!!!!”
“I made a post, basically telling people if you’re still undecided about whom to vote for, let me reintroduce ourselves as The Exonerated Five,” Richardson said.
“When he said, ‘I am the least racist person in the room’… I just think that was utterly ridiculous. That struck a nerve, definitely, because it’s very personal for me. And it’s personal for a lot of people. I’m not just speaking about myself, my brothers, my family.”
Richardson said Trump’s refusal to apologize to him and the other men—as well as his repeated downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic despite more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S.—shows his character.
“Here we are in a national debate, and Biden brings this up, which I’m so thankful that he did because people were waiting to hear that, to point that out on national TV. What about the Central Park five, now The Exonerated Five? You put this ad out to get them, calling for the death penalty? What about that?
“And still on national TV in a debate, he still dodges, he still didn’t even respond to it. Like it didn’t even matter. Like, we are less of a person to him, that he couldn’t even acknowledge and say, ‘You know what? I passed judgement that time. I’m sorry about that.’ He can’t even accept when he’s wrong.”
Even if Trump did apologize, Richardson said “it wouldn’t mean anything.”
“That ship has sailed,” he added. “But at this point, it’s like, what do you expect from him? The only thing he’s been consistent with is lies.”
Richardson adds that while he is nervous about the outcome of the election, he is also optimistic.
“I remember four years ago, I said to myself, there’s no way that this man could get elected but here we are four years later, in the same predicament,” he said.
“I just can’t believe where we are at now in society but we are like this. I don’t think we can go to another four years. That’s why it’s so important, that’s why we’re really pushing for people to vote.”
He acknowledges that some people may have “mixed feelings” about Biden, but adds that “we have to get Trump out of office.”
“Everybody has a right to their opinion, everybody has a right to vote for whom they chose,” he said. “But do you really think that we as a society will be better with Trump in office for more years? I think people need to ask themselves that.”
Richardson, a New Jersey resident, says he will be voting in person because he wants to “actually physically see my vote count.”
He knows that’s a trickier option due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “But we can’t let that discourage us from showing up,” he said. “This is another thing that we have to do. You have to show up.”
2020 has been tough on Richardson, whose sister Val died in March.
“I really want to start afresh in 2021 and hopefully the start will be Donald Trump not in office,” he said. “Yes, that will be a great day.”
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