New York City has unveiled a Central Park entrance named in honor of the "Exonerated Five," the five men wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger in 1989.
According to ABC News, the entrance was unveiled as the "Gate of the Exonerated" on Monday (December 19), marking exactly 20 years since the convictions of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise were vacated.
"I never reentered Central Park because of what happened to me and my fellow members of the Exonerated Five," Santana said in a statement. "Even when my daughter was born, there were moments I wanted to take her because of the beautiful playgrounds for the children, but I couldn’t bring myself to enter."
“Now that my daughter is an adult, it’s time for us to go to Central Park, see the Gate of the Exonerated, and once again be a part of the park community," he added.
"The 'Exonerated Five' is the American Black boy, man, story," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at Monday's unveiling. This naming "is sending a strong message. We should be having school trips [to the gate] to talk about this story."
The Exonerated Five were initially known as the "Central Park Five" in 1989 when Trisha Meili was raped and brutally beaten while on a jog in the park. Mcray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana, and Wise were taken into custody where they were hounded in police investigations and ultimately gave false confessions. The five were convicted of various charges including rape, assault, robbery, sexual abuse, sodomy, and riot.
However, Matias Reyes confessed to being the jogger's attacker in 2002, with his DNA matching to the crime scene. The Central Park Five's convictions were overturned and they later received a settlement from the city.
“The commemoration of this entrance is bittersweet,” Salaam said in a statement. “This Gate of the Exonerated serves as a reminder of the love and support we have received. For that, I am truly thankful and honored -- and recommitted to righting the wrongs of our criminal system of injustice to ensure our youth never face what we did.”