“Central Park Five” prosecutor Linda Fairstein has resigned from the board of Vassar College as well as the board of victim assistance organization Safe Horizon after Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” spurred renewed focus on Fairstein’s role in the 1989 case.
“I am told that Ms. Fairstein felt that, given the recent widespread debate over her role in the Central Park case, she believed that her continuing as a Board member would be harmful to Vassar,” wrote Vassar College president Elizabeth Bradley in a statement regarding the resignation.
The Netflix dramatization tells the story of the wrongful arrest and conviction of five teenagers in the wake of a rape of a Central Park jogger, as well as the lifelong consequences that follow. Depicted by Felicity Huffman, the on-screen Fairstein repeatedly refers to the teens as “animals.”
Safe Horizon confirmed to Variety that Fairstein had stepped down from its board, and issued a statement thanking her for her work and reiterating that its “top priority has been empowering victims and survivors.”
The hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein has gained traction on Twitter, and over 87,000 people have signed an online Change.org petition calling for retailers to stop selling Fairstein’s books. A separate petition, started several days ago, called for Fairstein’s resignation from the Vassar board.
“The events of the last few days have underscored how the history of racial and ethnic tensions in this country continue to deeply influence us today, and in ways that change over time,” Bradley said. “As I have received many emails and phone calls from people who have expressed a broad range of views on this issue, I am reminded of William Faulkner’s quote: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.'”