Ava DuVernay is taking on the controversial Central park Five case for her latest Netflix project. The miniseries “When They See Us,” explores the explosive moment five young boys of color who were accused of brutally assaulting and raping a white woman in New York City in 1989.
The crime divided the city and sparked real estate mogul Donald Trump to proclaim through racially charged rhetoric that the boys were guilty. As it turned out, he was wrong. And so was everyone else who accused Raymond Santana, 14; Kevin Richardson, 15; Antron McCray, 15; Yusef Salaam, 15 and 16-year-old Korey Wise.
Trump’s comments about the Central Park Five is spotlighted in “When They See Us,” out Friday. DuVernay opted not to hire an actor to play Trump. Instead, she used authentic media coverage of the hysteria surrounding the case, which appears throughout the four-episode project.
Trump even paid $85,000 for four full-page ads in several newspapers in NYC, demanding the execution of the five teens.
On Monday, Trump appeared to applaud himself for his criminal justice reform efforts, specifically the First Step Act he signed at the end of 201. He then slammed candidates associated with the 1994 Crime Bill, namely Joe Biden, who is running for president in the 2020 election.
“Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected,” Trump asserts. “In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!”
DuVernay was quick to point out his hypocrisy, by noting that the reason the 1994 bill was enacted was because of the actions of folks like Trump who waged war on Black and Brown men.
“The story people know is the lie that you fed them,” DuVernay replied to Trump on Twitter. “Your violent rhetoric fed tensions that led to the bill you pretend to distance yourself from. But you can’t hide from what you did to The Central Park Five. They were innocent. And they will have the last word.”
DuVernay included a clip from her new mini-series that shows real news footage of Trump telling NBC reporter Bryant Gumbel that he would “love to be a well-educated Black.”
Trump’s ads about the Central Park Five appeared in the New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post and New York Newsday—with the bold headline, “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE.”
As noted by Newsweek, in the ad, Trump noted that [white] families were not able to live their best lives because of the “wild criminals” roaming neighborhoods.
“At what point did we cross the line from the fine and noble pursuit of genuine civil liberties to the reckless and dangerously permissive atmosphere which allows criminals of every age to beat and rape a helpless woman and then laugh at her family’s anguish?” Trump wrote. “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”
He continued: “I no longer want to understand their anger. I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid.”
As noted by Essence, fast-forward to 2016 when Trump said in an interview that he wanted to pull a page from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s racial profiling playbook of using stop-and-frisks to target urban communities, and introduce the measure on a national level.