Yusef Salaam elected unopposed to the Harlem primary district in the US | Elections News
Wrongfully convicted as a teenager of rape in 1989, Salaam campaigned to alleviate poverty and tackle racism.
Yusef Salaam, who gained international attention as one of the teenagers from the United States wrongfully accused in the case of the Central Park Five, has won a seat on the New York City Council.
Salaam, a Democrat, was elected unopposed to the Harlem primary district in one of many local elections held across New York state on Tuesday.
He won the July primary in a landslide.
The victory comes more than two decades after DNA evidence overturned the convictions of the Central Park Five.
Salaam was arrested when he was just 15 and spent almost seven years in prison.
“For me, this means that we can truly be the wildest dreams of our ancestors,” said Salaam in an interview before the election.
Salaam was arrested along with Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise – all Black or Latino teenagers – and accused of raping and assaulting a white woman outside run in Central Park in 1989.
The crime dominated headlines in the city, igniting racial tensions as police rounded up Black and Latino men and boys for questioning. Former President Donald Trump, who was then just a brash real estate operator in the city, took out huge newspaper ads that forced New York to reinstate the death penalty.
The teenagers who were convicted in the attack were between five and 12 years in prison before the case was reviewed.
A serial rapist and murderer was eventually linked to the crime through DNA evidence and a confession.
The conviction of the Central Park Five was overturned in 2002 and the men eventually received a combined $41m settlement from the city.
Salaam campaigned to reduce poverty and fight gentrification in Harlem. He often told the voters about his conviction and imprisonment – his place as a symbol of injustice helping to animate the black area and move it to victory.
“I’m really the ambassador for everyone’s pain,” he said. “In many ways, I went through that for our people so that I can now lead them.”