Some Black Americans find irony in Trump's reaction to guilty verdict


New York — As Donald Trump lambasted the guilty verdict of his hush money trial, he stood inside a Manhattan courthouse that was the site of one of the most notorious examples of injustice in recent New York history. And he had a part in it.

It’s the same courthouse where five Black and Latino youths were wrongly convicted 34 years ago in the beating and rape of a white female jogger. The former president famously took out a newspaper ad in New York City in the aftermath of the 1989 attack calling for the execution of the accused in a case that roiled racial tensions locally and that many point to as evidence of a criminal justice system prejudiced against defendants of color.

But on Friday, a day after making history as the first U.S. president convicted of felony crimes in a court of law, Trump blasted that same criminal justice system as corrupt and rigged against him.

“This is a scam,” he said of the case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office led by Alvin Bragg, the first Black person in the role, and overseen by Judge Juan Merchan, who is of Colombian descent.

“This is a rigged trial. It shouldn’t have been in that venue. We shouldn’t have had that judge,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Friday in Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Some Black Americans found irony in Trump railing against what he called the injustice of his own conviction and in a courthouse where five Black and Latino teenagers were wrongly convicted in a case Trump supported so vociferously. The Central Park Five case was Trump’s first foray into tough-on-crime politics that preluded his full-throated populist political persona. To many, Trump employed dog whistles as well as overtly racist rhetoric in both chapters of his public life.

But lately, in his outreach to Black and Hispanic communities, Trump has adopted the language of criminal justice reform advocates. He claims Black Americans and Latinos can relate to him because prosecutors are out to get him like they have been out to get many men and youth in their communities.

“The shoe is on the other foot”  

“Donald Trump’s conviction is going to be a problem for him with many Black people because, guess what, many Black people do not like people who violate our criminal laws,” said Maya Wiley, a New York civil rights attorney and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“Black people are disproportionately the victims of crime. It’s not that they just side with people who’ve been convicted of a crime.”

Wiley, who ran unsuccessfully for New York City mayor in 2021, said the city’s Black and Hispanic residents also remember Trump’s comments about the Central Park jogger case.

“They haven’t forgotten the fact that Donald Trump took out a full-page ad suggesting the death penalty for the Central Park Five, who have been exonerated and were the victims of an abusive system,” Wiley said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, an advocate for the five exonerated men, called Trump’s conviction a symbolic measure of justice for them.

This is the same building that Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise all passed into, day after day, as they endured a show trial for a crime they did not commit,” Sharpton said just after the verdict was read.

“Now the shoe is on the other foot. Donald Trump is the criminal, and those five men are exonerated,” he said.

Yusef Salaam, who won a seat on the New York City Council last year, said he didn’t take pleasure in the former president’s guilty verdict “even though Donald Trump wanted me executed even when it was proven that I was innocent.”

Salaam and the other young men had their convictions vacated in 2002 after evidence linked another person to the crime. Trump in 2019 refused to apologize to the exonerated men.

“We should be proud that today the system worked,” Salaam wrote Thursday on the social media platform X. “But we should be somber that we Americans have an ex-President who has been found guilty on 34 separate felony charges.”

“We have to do better than this. Because we are better than this,” he wrote.

“A monumental step toward justice”  

Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project Action Fund civil rights group, said Trump hasn’t been subject to the type of unfair treatment in the criminal justice system that Black and Hispanic communities know too well.

“He didn’t have a violent arrest by police, he didn’t stay a night in Rikers Island because he couldn’t afford bail, he didn’t even go to jail. He could pay a battery of lawyers to represent him and he can pay for an appeal,” Dianis said.

Racial justice advocates are also using the historic moment to remind the public that Trump and his associates attempted to overturn the will of voters by challenging the 2020 presidential election results in heavily Black and Latino districts.

The hush money trial was just one part of a broader narrative around electoral justice, said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, who called the verdict against Trump “a monumental step toward justice for the American people.

“Whether it’s an attempt to steal an election or overthrow our government, one thing has long been apparent: Donald Trump is unfit to represent American democracy,” Johnson said after the verdict was heard Thursday.

Johnson, who leads the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, said Trump’s criminal conviction ought to disqualify him from the Oval Office.

“As Black Americans have been denied basic human rights due to less offensive crimes, any attempt to advance Donald Trump’s nomination for presidency would be a gross advancement of white supremacist policy,” he said.

Sharpton cautioned against gloating over the verdict.

“Instead, celebrate by casting votes for leaders who will protect democracy – not who want to kill it.”



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