And subsequent deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement seemed more brazen and inexcusable than those first two in which the facts are foggy.
It got so bad that there were several protests this summer along with revenge killing of cops. Starting with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, athletes, marching band members, and students across the nation would take a knee in protest instead of standing at attention while the national anthem was played.
I thought the controversy of the relationship between "The Law" and people of color hit Ground Zero on Friday, when Donald Trump insisted that the Central Park Five were guilty.
Shortly after arrests of your four black men and one Latino man for a rape in Central Park in 1989, Mr. Trump took out ads in New York's daily newspapers calling for the death penalty and saying:
Mayor [Ed] Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer ... Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will.They were convicted and each served several years in prison. But they were innocent. Everyone acknowledges it, except Donald Trump. As Janell Ross wrote on October 8:
This week, when confronted again with just how wrong he was about the Central Park Five, Trump not only refused to acknowledge widely reported and well-known facts or the court's official actions in the case. He did not simply refuse to apologize: He described the men as guilty, and then demonstrated, once again, that he is a master at the dark art of using long-standing racial fears, stereotypes and anxieties to advance his personal and political goals.
He used the Central Park Five to differentiate himself from his political opponent. He stoked support for solutions inconsistent with the law. And he refused to admit any error. In doing so, Trump showed himself to be genuinely willing to say the impolitic, to take a harder-than-hard stand on crime and to do or say anything to best and punish those who he believes have committed crimes.
When prosecutors took each of the five to trial, they were aware that they had no DNA linking any of them to the rape and did have DNA evidence linking a sixth, then-unidentified man to the crime. The actual rapist later confessed to the crime, but each of the Central Park Five had already served substantial prison terms and been released.
All of this, repeat, every bit of this, has been reported many times in many different media outlets. As a New Yorker, Trump would have, at points, been surrounded by news of the aforementioned findings and the reasons that the city settled for $40 million with the Central Park Five.It appears Mr.Trump doesn't care about facts when his mind is made up. He believes five innocent people should still be in prison, if not executed. Their lives - four black lives, one Latino life -don't matter at all to him. That should have been the Number 1 issue in the October 9 debate, but Mrs. Clinton didn't even bring it up. That's because after his Central Park Five comments hit the news, a leaked 11 year-old leaked tape of Mr. Trump discussing his sexual behavior toward women, including an admission to actions that constitute sexual assault, overshadowed it.
Bad as the sexual remarks are, they don't have much bearing on Mr. Trump's policies. But taking a "hard line" on crime to such a degree that guilt or innocence doesn't matter, is to violate a sense of justice that would appall even the most craven and narcissistic politicians of the present and past.
Mr. Trump has said a lot of things that aren't technically factual. But much of what I've heard described as "lies" were rhetorical flourishes or hyperbole with some element of truth to them. An example: Mrs. Clinton didn't in fact create ISIS, but her actions did help create ISIS.
Mr. Trump's Central Park Five comments are different. It's not about lying, or even being mistaken. it's being willfully out of touch with reality.
I am no fan of Mrs. Clinton. She is, in her own way, unfit for the Presidency (or any job) as Mr. Trump is. But her refusal to bring up the Central Park Five is akin to a football team electing to punt on third down all the time. It's frustrating and didn't make sense. Mrs. Clinton should have relentlessly baited Mr. Trump over this. Many of Mr. Trump's apologists who defended him over the sexual remark could have learned about this for the very first time and found themselves embarrassed and ashamed.
And if there was a good reason for Mrs. Clinton to ignore Mr. Trump's bizarre positions on criminal justice, if there was a good reason that black lives didn't matter on October 9, then I am even more out of step with the political climate than I thought.