(290418)

Family members of the four young Black men accused of raping a White woman in Florida 70 years ago gathered Friday for the unveiling of a memorial that lays bare the “gross injustices” they endured, reports NBC News. But amid the celebration, the families of those men — known as the Groveland Four — told the large crowd in attendance that the struggle to clear their names is far from over.

While Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Earnest Thomas were posthumously pardoned of the crime last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the four have not been exonerated. “It’s hard to put into words and have you understand the pain and hardships this injustice has caused this family for 70 years,” Gerald Threat, a nephew of Irvin’s, said at the unveiling. Irvin died in 1969, a year after he was released on parole.

“The only thing that can rectify this injustice is a full exoneration by the state,” Threat added. “We cannot pick and choose what we allow. It’s all or nothing.” The pardon forgave the men for the crime, but an exoneration would declare that they did not commit the rape against the victim, a then-17-year-old named Norma Padgett, who was living in the community of Groveland. Now in her ‘80s, Padgett appeared before the clemency board in January 2019 to ask them to not pardon the men. On Friday, with DeSantis in attendance, other family members of the men also urged for an exoneration.

“I think we haven’t reached the end of the road, but we have come a long way,” said Carol Greenlee, the daughter of Charles Greenlee, who was 16 and the youngest of the suspects when an all-White jury sentenced him to life in prison. “Give me hope that we will make that final push for exoneration,” she added. State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat, and other supporters at the dedication said they will continue fighting to clear the men’s names.

Thompson has previously said that DeSantis, a Republican who assumed office more than a year ago, was made aware of the exoneration request. The state constitution, however, doesn’t give the governor or the clemency board the power to exonerate someone. Typically, it takes a court to overturn a conviction and for prosecutors to drop the charges, which would then effectively exonerate the person.