Example: [Collected via e-mail, August 2007]
JUSTICE FOR THE "JENA 6" - TAKE ACTION NOW!!!
In a small highly segregated rural Louisiana town of Jena in September 2006, a black student asked permission from school administrators to sit under the shade of a tree commonly reserved for the enjoyment of white students. School officials advised the black students to sit wherever they wanted and they did. The next day, three nooses, in the school colors, were hanging from the same tree.
The Jena high school principal found that three white students were responsible and recommended expulsion. The white superintendent of schools over-ruled the principal and gave the students a three day suspension, saying that the nooses were "a youthful stunt." Black students decided to resist and organized a sit-in under the tree to protest the lenient treatment given to the noose-hanging white students.
Racial tensions remained elevated throughout the fall. On Monday,
As a result of this incident, six black Jena students were arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder. All six were expelled from school. The six charged were: 17-year-old Robert Bailey Junior whose bail was set at $138,000; 17-year-old Theo Shaw - bail $130,000; 18-year-old Carwin Jones - bail $100,000; 17-year-old Bryant Purvis - bail $70,000; 16-year-old Mychal Bell, a sophomore in high school who was charged as an adult and for whom bail was set at $90,000; and a still unidentified minor.
On the morning of the trial, the District Attorney reduced the charges from attempted second degree murder to second degree aggravated battery and conspiracy. Aggravated battery in Louisiana law demands the attack be with a dangerous weapon. The prosecutor was allowed to argue to the jury that the tennis shoes worn by Bell could be considered a dangerous weapon.
When the pool of potential jurors was summoned, fifty people appeared, all white. The jury deliberated for less than three hours and found Mychal Bell guilty on the maximum possible charges of aggravated second degree battery and conspiracy. He faces up to a maximum of
As Chairman Julian Bond stated, "This is an American outrage that demonstrates the continuing shame of racial division in our country. Join us in making it one of the last."
The NAACP, along with a number of organizations, has been working with the lawyers of the
THE ACTION WE NEED YOU TO TAKE NOW!!!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION TO THIS IMPORTANT MATTER!!!
Stefanie L. Brown,
NAACP Youth & College Division
Nikki Jenkins, M.A.
City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities
910 Dublin Road
Columbus, OH 43215
"To enhance the quality of life now and into the future for people living, working and raising families in Central Ohio through economic, efficient and environmentally responsible stewardship of superior public utilities."
Origins: The appeal quoted above, which began circulating in
At the end of a school assembly on 31 August 2006, a black student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, jokingly asked the assistant principal of that institution if black students were allowed to sit in the shade of a tree in a square at the center of campus. The official's response was that they could "sit anywhere you want." The next morning, two nooses were found hanging from said tree.
Scott Windham, the high school's principal, recommended that the three white teens responsible for festooning the tree with those nooses be expelled from Jena High School, but that recommendation was overruled by the school superintendent and board members, who instead opted to view the matter as a non-racially motivated "prank." The three students responsible for placing the nooses were instead given three-day suspensions and temporary isolation.
In another incident that took place on 2 December 2006 at the Gotta-Go Grocery, a convenience store, a white Jena graduate reportedly pulled a pump-action shotgun on three black high school students when they left the shop. The three teens managed to wrestle the gun away from the man (who was injured in the process and was treated at a hospital for his injuries); they were later arrested and charged with second-degree robbery, theft of a firearm, and conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery. Accounts differ as to what happened in that incident, the white victim asserting he was attacked and robbed by the three teens, and the black teens asserting they were guilty of nothing more than defending themselves against a man with a gun. According to The Jena Times, eyewitness accounts provided by those unrelated to any of the four involved parties supported the victim's story.
The "Jena 6" attack took place on
That assault resulted in five of the black teens involved being charged, as adults, with attempted second-degree murder and given bonds ranging from $70,000 to $138,000. A sixth teen was charged as a juvenile. Two of the
Mychal Bell, the only one of the Jena 6 to be tried so far, was convicted in June 2007 on a reduced charge of aggravated second-degree battery. (His conviction was later vacated by an appeals court ruling that he should have been tried as a juvenile.) The case against Bell was weighed by an all-white jury (because no blacks called for jury duty showed up on the day of jury selection), and there were allegations that the Bell's original attorney did a poor job defending him.
Prosecutors in his case revealed that Bell had been convicted as a juvenile for attacking someone a year prior to the
In September 2007, Reed Walters, the district attorney of LaSalle Parish, explained the rationale behind the charges brought against the
Conjure the image of schoolboys fighting: they exchange words, clench fists, throw punches, wrestle in the dirt until classmates or teachers pull them apart. Of course that would not be aggravated second-degree battery, which is what the attackers are now charged with. (Five of the defendants were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder.) But that’s not what happened at Jena High School.
The victim in this crime, who has been all but forgotten amid the focus on the defendants, was a young man named Justin Barker, who was not involved in the nooses incident three months earlier. According to all the credible evidence I am aware of, after lunch, he walked to his next class. As he passed through the gymnasium door to the outside, he was blindsided and knocked unconscious by a vicious blow to the head thrown by Mychal Bell. While lying on the ground unaware of what was happening to him, he was brutally kicked by at least six people.
Imagine you were walking down a city street, and someone leapt from behind a tree and hit you so hard that you fell to the sidewalk unconscious. Would you later describe that as a fight?
Only the intervention of an uninvolved student protected Mr. Barker from severe injury or death. There was serious bodily harm inflicted with a dangerous
Donald Washington, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, asserted that a review of the Jena investigations indicated there was no link between the hanging of the nooses and the beating of a student three months later: "A lot of things happened between the noose hanging and the fight occurring, and we have arrived at the conclusion that the fight itself had no connection."
LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, who oversaw the investigations into both incidents, echoed that sentiment:
Washington noted that after the noose-hanging incident at the start of the school year in August, school routines went forward as usual; there was no apparent lingering anger.
"There were three months of high school football in which they all played football together and got along fine, in which there was a homecoming court, in which there was the drill team, in which there were parades."
Asked if the incidents had been blown out of proportion, he replied, "To a degree, I believe so, yes."
Bigg, Matthew. "Youth in Louisiana Race Case Freed on Bail." Reuters. 27 September 2007. Foster, Mary. "Charges Reduced for Student in La. Fight." Associated Press. 27 June 2007. Mitchell, Mary. "Did Civil Rights Movement Pass Louisiana By?" Chicago Sun Times. 30 August 2007 (p. 12). Walters, Reed. "Justice in Jena." The New York Times. 26 September 2007 (p. A27). Associated Press. "Jena High School Bans 'Free the Jena 6' T-shirts." 29 August 2007. Associated Press. "Prosecutor: 'Jena Six' Defendant Had Four Juvenile Convictions." 25 August 2007. Associated Press. "Convicted Jena Student Gets Beefed Up Appellate Team." 30 July 2007. Associated Press. "Trial for Black Jena Students Accused of Trying to Kill White." 3 May 2007. Associated Press. "Charges Reduced in 'Jena 6' Attack." 4 September 2007. CNN.com. "Louisiana Judge Tosses Conviction Against Teen Tried As Adult." 14 September 2007. CNN.com. " U.S. Attorney: Nooses, Beating at Jena High Not Related." 14 September 2007. The Dallas Morning News. "Official: 2006 Jena School Fire Was Arson, Not Related to Race." Associated Press. 28 December 2007.