Wrongly convicted as a teenager for a 1989 rape, Salaam campaigned to reduce poverty and fight gentrification.
Yusef Salaam, who gained international attention as one of the wrongly accused American teenagers involved in the Central Park Five case have won a seat on the New York City Council.
Salaam, a Democrat, was elected unopposed in a central Harlem district in one of several local elections held Tuesday in New York state.
He won the July primary in a landslide.
The victory comes more than two decades after DNA evidence led to the overturning of the Central Park Five’s convictions.
Salaam was arrested when he was 15 and spent almost seven years in prison.
“To me, this means that we can truly become the wildest dreams of our ancestors,” Salaam said 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 charged with the rape and assault of a white woman who was running in Central Park in 1989.
The crime made headlines across the city, stoking racial tensions as police arrested black and Latino men and boys for questioning. Former President Donald Trumpthen a brash executive in the city’s real estate industry, took out large newspaper ads imploring New York to reinstate the death penalty.
The teenagers convicted of the attack served between five and 12 years in prison before the case was re-examined.
A serial rapist and murderer was finally linked to the crime through DNA evidence and a confession.
The Central Park Five’s convictions were overturned in 2002 and the men ultimately received prison time. $41 million combined settlement from the city.
Salaam campaigned to reduce poverty and fight gentrification in Harlem. He often spoke to voters about his conviction and imprisonment — his place as a symbol of injustice helping to enliven a majority-black district and propel it to victory.
“I’m truly an ambassador for everyone’s pain,” he said. “In many ways, I experienced this for our people so that I can now lead them. »