Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for a boycott of former New York City prosecutor Linda Fairstein for her involvement with the prosecution of five black and Latino teenagers known as the Central Park Five.
The petition, which had over 50,000 signatures by Tuesday, urges retailers and book publishers to sever ties with Fairstein, who has written more than 20 mystery novels. It was created after the May 31 release of “When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s limited Netflix series about the Central Park jogger case.
The stunning four-part series reignited widespread conversation in the media about the consequences of systemic racism in America’s criminal justice system, the fate of the Central Park Five, and Fairstein’s role in the case.
“When They See Us” puts the spotlight on the stories of Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam, who were all wrongly convicted of brutally raping a white 28-year-old female jogger in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.
A statement in a Change.org petition accuses Fairstein of leading “a witch hunt against five teenage boys” that “fundamentally changed these men’s lives forever.”
Fairstein, portrayed by Felicity Huffman in the series, was the chief Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor at the time the teens, aged 14 to 16, were interrogated in 1989. The five of them later maintained they were coerced into giving false confessions through police scare tactics and manipulation ― which is portrayed in “When They See Us.”
The five were convicted of numerous crimes related to the assault on Trisha Meili, and each served years behind bars. Those convictions were vacated in 2002 after DNA evidence and a confession linked serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes to the crime.
Fairstein, who according to the Associated Press observed the Central Park Five interrogations, went on to write a series of crime novels beginning in 1996. The most recent was published this year.
The petition asks “ALL retailers & book publishers to stop selling Linda Fairstein books or any product that has ties to her.”
People have also joined the protest against Fairstein by tweeting hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein over the weekend.
Fairstein has previously come under fire for her role in the Central Park Five case. Last year, the Mystery Writers of America announced the former prosecutor would receive one of its “Grand Master” awards and then withdrew the honor in the face of swift backlash online.
“After profound reflection, the Board has decided that M.W.A. cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members,” the group said, according to The New York Times.
Fairstein’s publisher and a person listed as a representative for the author did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment. Over the years, however, Fairstein has repeatedly defended her office’s handling of the prosecution.
In an interview with TMZ over the weekend, Santana, one of the Central Park Five, spoke about the renewed criticism of Fairstein. “No matter how long it is, the truth comes out. And even though it’s 30 years later, she has to pay for her crime,” he said.
Here’s a sample of that online backlash:
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