Korey Wise, exonerated member of Central Park 5 speaks out on NYPD water dousing incident

Korey Wise
Emerald Garner speaks at the fifth anniversary of her father's death at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, on July 30, 2019. She is joined by her brothers, Emery and Eric Garner Jr.; her mother, Esaw Snipes Garner (not pictured); Korey Wise, one of the exonerated Central Park Five; Ilyasah Shabazz (back left), daughter of Malcolm X, and actor, rapper, dancer Sean “ARNSTAR” Kirkland (back center). |

NEW YORK — With a flicker of rage and incredulity, Korey Wise, the oldest of the exonerated Central Park Five, said the aggressive push to prosecute people for  dousing NYPD officers with water while failing to prosecute officers who wrongfully kill and brutalize residents is hypocrisy.

“I find myself laughing because of this latest news with this water situation. With police getting wet up,” Wise said Tuesday night to an approving crowd that gathered at the historic Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem.

They were there to mark the fifth anniversary of the controversial death of Eric Garner, a New York father of six who died in the summer of 2014 after he was placed in a chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was not criminally indicted. 

A week earlier, widespread condemnation and calls for justice came from voices as powerful as Vice President Mike Pence over viral videos that surfaced showing NYPD officers being doused with water by residents in Harlem and Brooklyn. Several arrests have already been made while state lawmakers have proposed legislation to make it a felony to throw water on officers.

“They looking for the kids and this and that, but how about the police then? How about the police? Water, it’s hot. Calm down. Enjoy your summer! But you want this kid with the water instead of the police who choked Eric Garner. Something to think about,” he said.

Korey Wise
Korey Wise's NYPD booking photo in April 1989. He was 16. |
Korey Wise
A scene from Korey Wise's 1989 video statement. He was 16. |

Wise was 16 years old when he and four other teenagers were coerced into confessing to the brutal rape of a white woman in the city’s famous park in 1989. All were wrongfully convicted of the crime. 

The four younger boys, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana served their time in juvenile facilities before being transferred to adult jails at age 21. Wise, who "had hearing problems from an early age, and a learning disability that limited his achievement in school,” according to  Sarah Burns in her book, The Central Park Five, suffered immensely.

While in police custody, officials questioned Wise throughout the night and persuaded him to produce four different statements — two written and two videotaped confessions.

As a result of being 16, the 5-foot-5 Wise went on to spend his pre-trial imprisonment and nearly 14 years in adult facilities where he had very little protection from inmates and abusive guards.

He was recently portrayed by Jharrel Jerome in Netflix’s haunting series When They See Us.

After quietly listening to a discussion on activism on Tuesday, Wise said the situation concerning police brutality was still “sad.”

“When listening to everyone up here, we’re talking system-wise. The system is not made for us. How can there really be justice on stolen land? If they’re sent here to protect us, who’s gonna protect us from them now? That’s why you have street justice now. And they don’t like to hear that word, street justice. This is sad. Oh wow it’s sad,” he said, sighing.

“We done went from Rodney King, '93, and [nobody] got arrested for that. Even Rodney had to pass away off the behind whooping. Now we talking about Eric Garner with the chokehold. An illegal chokehold. Nothing being said about the officer here,” he continued.

“We have a felony system. They don’t want us here. They want [us] outta here,” he added before capping his comments with, ‘Donald Trump! You’re just one term!”

Challenged on holding Pantaleo accountable for the death of Eric Garner after the Department of Justice declined to indict him on civil rights violation charges, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is also a Democratic presidential candidate, said during the second presidential debate on CNN Wednesday night that justice is coming for the Garner family.

“I know the Garner family. They’ve gone through extraordinary pain. They are waiting for justice and are going to get justice. There’s finally going to be justice. I have confidence in that, in the next 30 days, in New York,” he said.

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