Netflix's When They See Us Sparks Boycott of Central Park 5 Prosecutor, Author Linda Fairstein

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Netflix's <i>When They See Us</i> Sparks Boycott of Central Park 5 Prosecutor, Author Linda Fairstein

Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed Netflix docudrama on the infamous Central Park Five case, When They See Us, is sparking a boycott of series villain Linda Fairstein’s books.

The Central Park Five were Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Antron McCray—all black and brown teenagers arrested for the sexual assault of a white female jogger, despite the fact police had no hard evidence connecting them to the scene besides unreliable witness testimony. They would each eventually spend six to 13 years locked up for a crime they didn’t commit.

At the time, Fairstein was the head of New York County’s Sex Crimes Unit. Her unshakable belief in the five boys’ guilt and aggressive prosecution led a judge, hearing one of the Central Park Five’s many appeals, to say of her, “Fairstein wanted to make a name. She didn’t care. She wasn’t a human.” After her law career, she went on to become a bestselling mystery writer, thanks to her popular detective-prosecutor character Alex Cooper.

In the fictionalized series, Fairstein is played by Felicity Huffmann—no stranger to controversy herself—and her ruthless take on the character is inspiring Twitter users to protest the real Fairstein’s consequence-free post-Central Park Five career with the hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein.

Angie Thomas, the young adult author behind The Hate U Give, also called for a boycott of Fairstein’s YA novels:

This isn’t the first time the skeletons in Fairstein’s closet have caused controversy. The Mystery Writers of America gave and then rescinded their Grand Master award to Fairstein in 2018 following public outcry. Fairstein also aided Harvey Weinstein in finding legal representation in a sexual assault case brought against him in 2015 by Italian model Ambra Battilana, an incident that is getting fresh attention.