Thousands March in Jena LA Today

Protesters from around the country gathered in the tiny town of Jena LA today, marching in support of six black teenagers who were initially charged with attempted murder after they beat up a white classmate — who was badly bruised but still able to attend a school function the same night. The beating was the culmination of a series of confrontations that began in August 2006, when black students at the local high school received permission from school administrators to sit under a tree where white kids usually gathered. Some of the white students retaliated by hanging nooses from the tree.

Just pause and take that in for a minute. In 2006, black students had to get permission to sit under a tree because it had been reserved for whites only. And because they did so, white students responded by hanging nooses, the symbol of lynching, in the tree.

Those white students were briefly suspended from school even though the principal recommended that they be expelled. It has been reported that after the school superintendent dismissed the noose incident as a prank, black students began sitting under the tree in protest. This drew the attention of the District Attorney, who came to the school to demand the students end their protest (sitting under a tree?) and told them he could “take away your lives with a stroke of my pen.”

More incidents followed, with name-calling and violence and even an unexplained fire that destroyed the main academic building at the high school. A black student was beaten by a white student at an off-campus party. A white man pulled a shotgun on three black students at a convenience store. The white student was charged with simple battery. The white man who pulled the gun wasn’t charged, but the kids who wrestled the gun away from him were arrested for aggravated battery and theft.

Shortly thereafter, in early December, six black students beat up a white student who they say was taunting the black student who had been beaten and calling several students “nigger”. The victim was hospitalized for a few hours and released in time to go to a school function, but the District Attorney chose to charge the attackers with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy. Robert Bailey, Jr., 17, was one of the students so charged — and also the victim of the previously mentioned beating, which resulted in simple battery charges.

Somewhat cooler heads prevailed; Bailey and two other students saw their charges reduced to battery and conspiracy, while one has not yet been arraigned. The disposition for a fifth student, who was fourteen at the time, is unknown. Mychal Bell, who remains in jail because his family couldn’t scrape up the $90,000 bail (yes, that’s $90,000 — the range was $70,000 to $138,000), was convicted by an all-white jury of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy, but the charges have been vacated, pending further action by the District Attorney.

Let me say very clearly that I don’t condone students attacking and beating other students. I’m particularly angered when a group gangs up on one person. Any student who attacks another student, on campus or off, should be punished appropriately.

That said, it seems this powder keg could have been defused before it blew. I’m still reeling from the words I typed in the first and second paragraphs. There is no place in the 21st century for “whites only” gathering places at public schools (or anywhere else). White students have no business hanging nooses from a tree. It’s not a joke. It’s not remotely funny. Nooses are a symbol of vigilante attacks, period. They are an implicit threat. Any school superintendent who has so little understanding of history as to write off that incident as a prank really needs to find another line of work. And what looks like ridiculous over-charging of the black students, particularly in contrast with the white attacker, did nothing to ease tensions.

I can only hope that today’s demonstration, which has been peaceful and purposeful by all reports, will shed light on the ongoing racism that all people of good will would like to end. An excellent way to start is to recognize it and confront it early, before we end up with another Jena.

38 Responses to “Thousands March in Jena LA Today”

  1. Bill says:

    Amazing. Excellent coverage. I hope the citizens of Jena are as proud of their Inquisitor in Chief as the State of Alabama is of its own.

  2. mooncat says:

    Great post! I’m so glad there was no violence in Jena today.

  3. Joe Nate says:

    I believe you need to take a look at both sides of the situation. It is ironic how the US Atty (which is black) agrees with the DA of LaSalle Parrish. The student who is being tried, has a criminal record (battery, violation probation). I dont agree with the students that were not punished for the nooses in tree but this notion that the tree was reserved for whites only comes from many things that are protrayed in the media. Take a look at the “black” universities, “black” award shows, everything has to be labeled african-amer, latino, etc. What if this was reversed and called caucasian award shows, what would the uproar be. I believe that the shakedown artists need to stay out of the town and let the residents deal with this on their own. Jackson and Sharpton care nothing of these kids, they are only there to promote their own self interests. Its amazing how one of your own (Obama is not not jumping on the I hate Whitey bandwagon)

  4. Kathy says:

    Joe Nate, you need to work on your cutting and pasting skills. After you take some lessons in reading comprehension.

  5. Dan says:

    Joe, if you take out all the BS you just spilled about things that have nothing to do with this case, then you’re left with an obviously racist situation.

  6. ALmod says:

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, and only because I’ve recently witnessed a situation in Birmingham involving the black community that left me very disturbed. A black lynch mob of sorts attempted (and succeeded) in having a Vietnamese store owner’s business license revoked for what eye witnesses are saying was an act of self defense. Among the comments was one protester comparing it to slavery and another saying that she wanted the business replaced with a black business that could better serve the community.

    Joe, despite being more than a bit off, does have a slight point. Racism goes both ways, and until the black community can see past their own racism and self-segregation, there will NEVER be an end to this. The black colleges, black scholarships, black sororities and fraternities… It has to end. When I was in college, my sorority pledged a black student. The poor girl ended up leaving because she was lambasted by the black students on campus. Now, reverse these situations and tell me that blacks would be so okay with the same whites-only mentality. The tree in and of itself answers that question.

    Now, I’m not defending the whites-only tree. It’s a concept I hate in ANY situation with any race. I think that the last thing Dr. King had in mind was a black-only or whites-only ANYTHING. Rather, his dream was that we would all live in harmony. I’m just saying that we should quit having double standards and look at these situations for what they really are. They are an attempt at self-segregation on the part of minorities– something that whites are not allowed because we OWE something. It’s a sick mentality. Why should anything be separate?

    Back to the issue at hand… Do I think this could have been defused earlier? Absolutely. Do I think it’s been handled badly? Absolutely. But do I think that six kids who beat up another kid should get off scott free because the previous situations were handled badly? Absolutely not. Attempted murder is going more than a bit too far, but A&B is pretty spot on. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Do I think that the nooses should be considered a hate crime? No. I’m not a huge fan of hate crime legislation, anyway. It’s mostly because it’s double persecution and implies that one group of victims have more rights than another. It could however be potentially viewed as a threat or as vandalism– either being more than ample reason for expulsion and/or criminal charges. The same goes for any beatings administered by white students. It was more than ample reason for criminal charges of assault in and of itself.

    Anyway… It’s just my 2 cents.

  7. Dan says:

    Yeah that crap in B’ham was whack. I used to shop at that store, but probably will never go there again.

    I’m not saying the black kids shouldn’t be charged with something. But it’s obviously sided against the black students. Attempted murder? It was obviously assault. And it wouldn’t be such a big deal if the white student who beat up the black kid was also charged with attempted murder. But apparently that only amounts to assault.

  8. ALmod says:

    Dan, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.

    But I’ve heard it argued that the white kids should be charged with a hate crime and that the charges on the black kids should be dropped. That’s not a sense of fairness, it’s just tipping the racism in the other direction.

  9. Tom Davis says:

    This reminds of of Joe Reed’s attitude toward Representative Patricia Todd.

  10. Kathy says:

    ALMod, I know you actually read my post, so you know I didn’t argue either of those things.

    You’re younger than I am, so you may not remember a time when a black girl wouldn’t be permitted to join an otherwise all-white sorority, but I do — and I’m not that old. My college sorority wanted to offer a bid to a black girl, and we were told that the alumni would pull their financial support if we did. Black organizations came about for a reason — blacks weren’t allowed in the all-white schools, clubs, business organizations. Perhaps they’ve outlived their general usefulness as society advances, but change comes more slowly in some places.

    We’ve had centuries of the institutionalized assumption of inherent white superiority in this country, and it’s going to take more than a few years to get beyond that to the color-blind world that Dr. King envisioned. Of course we can find examples of black racism, and it’s no better than white racism, but for the most part, black people don’t exercise that racism from a position of power. Clearly they did in the case you mention, but that’s not the norm.

    When we still have “white” trees — and black students involved in fights are charged with felonies while white assailants are charged with misdemeanors — we have a ways to go yet.

  11. Tom Davis says:

    Almod:

    Look at all the hate in Red China, then look at Selma, Alabama and tell me we are not on the eve of destruction.

  12. Del says:

    I don’t know what to think about this, except that a) the superintendent had no business overriding the principal’s decision to expel the noose-hanging white kids. I don’t like hate crime laws either, and this wouldn’t be a hate crime in any case but “freedom of [hateful] speech,” but numerous court cases have established that freedom of speech is not extended to schoolchildren during the school day. And b) the attempted murder charges were ridiculous. (However, I was not aware that any of the kids had previous records. Maybe when you have a record, you lose the right to have your schoolyard dustups treated as nothing serious.)

    My kids are at a public high school that is slightly over 50% black. They’re in an honors program “cocoon,” but are also in the marching band and have lots of black acquaintances and a few black friends. Overall, though, the school tends to split along racial lines. For example, DS matter-of-factly explained that it’s difficult to become an elected member of band council (there are also appointed members) because the black kids vote in a bloc. I can definitely see a tree being designated “black” or “white”—I’m sure there already are certain areas of my kids’ campus where groups of one color or the other congregate. These things can become very firmly established without anybody having to hang up a sign that says “Whites Only.” So, I kind of feel that this business of “obtaining permission” to sit under the white tree was deliberately undertaken to stir up some sh*t. Which certainly happened.

    So, we have a schoolyard brawl that has gotten seriously out of hand—and the Revs. Sharpton & Jackson just can’t find a microphone big enough.

  13. Kathy says:

    Del, I don’t think there should have been any criminal charges filed against the noose-hangers. I do think the school administration should have addressed the issue up front and made it clear that “pranks” like this would not be tolerated — and why.

    As for Sharpton and Jackson, I know it’s easy to make the assumption that they stirred this up, but I heard an interview this morning with the Chicago Tribune reporter (he’s based in Houston) who initially broke the story in the mainstream media, and he made it clear that the protest had built up from the grass roots. Civil rights leaders didn’t pilot this ship.

  14. Del says:

    I don’t think the school administration had advance notice to address this particular issue, but once the principal (and I have no idea whether he/she is white or black) decided to expel the “Noose 3,” the decision should have been respected. Hanging nooses may not be a criminal act but it’s sure as hell not the kind of behavior I want tolerated at any school my kids attend. If those kids’ butts had been sitting home preparing for the GED, all this would have been over and done with.

    I know Sharpton et al. didn’t organize the protest, although I’m sure if word was out that they were attending, that increased the size & scope of the thing. But they sure are eager to grab the spotlight. Why can’t the local people who did organize the protest be the ones giving their opinion on TV?

    And I know we have a ways to go yet, but when the only cause those clowns can find to espouse are six kids who ganged up to beat the crap out of one kid, nooses or no nooses, then maybe we’ve come farther than you think.

  15. Kathy says:

    I didn’t mean to imply the administration had advance notice; I was referring to the missed opportunity right after the noose incident.

    Sharpton and Jackson may be media whores, but I wonder if the kids would have been convicted of attempted murder already if there had not been press attention. What they did was wrong, no question. The charges filed against them were disproportionate to the crime, particularly when contrasted with the misdemeanor charge against a white kid who beat up a black kid at an off-campus party, allegedly hitting him with a beer bottle.

  16. Del says:

    I’d also like to know who burned down the school building. The “unsolved arson” doesn’t seem to be getting much press but surely is by far the worst crime committed in the series.

  17. ALmod says:

    “This reminds of of Joe Reed’s attitude toward Representative Patricia Todd.”

    Oddly enough, I concur.

    Kathy, I know you didn’t argue those things. I didn’t say you did. I said that I have heard people argue them. Not you. I apologize if the impression I gave was otherwise.

    Do I presume that things will be perfect? Of course not! But what I’m getting at is that there has to be progress from both ends of the spectrum. No, there should not be white trees, but there shouldn’t be any black trees, either. If you don’t allow for one, you can’t allow for the other. If you do, then it keeps things the same at best and takes a huge step backwards at worst. If an organization won’t let in a black person, it’s discrimination. If an organization won’t let in a white person, it’s discrimination. Period. If any exclusivity is allowed on the basis of race– whether it’s white, black, brown, yellow, or red– it creates resentment among other races and in turn breeds more racism.

    On the same note, I completely disagree with the way that this has been handled, and I’ve said as much. I do disagree with you that no charges should have been brought against the noose hangers. I’ve seen kids be brought up on destruction of property charges for rolling houses and on harassment charges for much less– though it was brought up in juvenile court.

    I have no idea why the charges were so unbalanced in comparison, but I have a theory. What was the ratio of student on student at the first fight compared to the 6:1 for the Jena 6 fight? I’m not justifying the trumped up charges by any means, but I’m trying to figure out some minuscule amount of logic that the DA might have applied to the situation. The location of each fight might also be a contributing factor to the charges if one was on-campus and one was off-campus. Again, I’m not justifying– just trying to figure out some alternative reasoning behind it.

  18. Tom Davis says:

    I would visit the white kid who got beaten up by the six black youths. I would say

    “son I want to explain why you were beaten near death. Years ago before you were born black people were mistreated and beaten often for no reason. This is why you are beaten for no real known reason. Do you understand? Can you hear me, son. Wake up son!”

  19. Kathy says:

    Tom, unless he’s sleeping in on a weekend as teenagers have been known to do, you won’t have any problems waking him. He attended a school function the evening of the fight. Nice attempt to imply he’s in a coma, though.

    And given that you’re the person who waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of Charles Bishop punching Lowell Barron in the head on the floor of the Alabama Senate, I’m, not sure you have any credibility when it comes to decrying violence.

  20. Tom Davis says:

    Kathy:

    As a marcher myself I can relate.

    We marched down Greenvalley Road to stop the road diversion last year. Yes we met the Mountain Brook Police. Yes they used water. The water they tossed at us as we walked by, No, It was’t Perrier, it was Publix store water, UGH!!!

    About two hundred marchers. The television cameras recorded our faces for possible government records. FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation who know else.

    We walked, dogs barking at us. We walked. ” The Man” was there, Mountain Brook Police with Publix water.

    Scared, Heck yes we were! Glad to be back home crawled under the bed!!

    The dogs, the water, the heat!!

  21. Bill says:

    Tom,

    I do not know the particular rock out from which you crawled. Your repeated defense of (and seeming crush on) the preposterous Troy King has given me some level of amusement the past few days. But to joke about people who have been tortured and murdered in the name of human rights in this community is beyond the pale. Your racist comments are beyond offensive to me. I will no longer read your drivel.

    One last comment to you, do not come in here again with your patronizing, “keep quiet, little woman” comments to Kathy. I suspect she is refraining from ripping you to shreds because she refuses to waste her considerable intellect in having a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

  22. Tom Davis says:

    Bill: Did you forget to take your medication today? I hope you feel better tomorrow.

  23. Kathy says:

    Tom, I was opposed to the rerouting of Green Valley road too, but if you’re going to come here making comparisons between your “Save the Lockerbie Landowners” march and black people being sprayed with fire hoses and attacked by police dogs, I think you’re the one who needs to check your medication.

  24. ALmod says:

    Tom is serious? Wow! I mean… Wow!

  25. Tom Davis says:

    Hey Guys!! No way was I making that comparison. I am not brave. I was just saying how scary it was for me personally.

    I grew up in North Dakota. Moved to Selma in 1960. The kids called me John Kennedy and beat me up every day. I understand how it is to be different. They called me Yankee boy!!

    I met Richard Scrushy and found out he was cool about Civil Rights and we both talked about word peace and went to see the marchers go across the Edmund Pettus Bridge!!

    The local redneck kids hated us and beat us up. I got a brain concussion and thats the truth!!

  26. KathyF says:

    The only thing that surprises me about this is the attention it’s getting in the media. Because in this part of Louisiana, this sort of thing goes on all the time, even today. This town is just down the road from my in-laws, who live near Alexandria. There are other towns in LA where you’d find the exact same situations. White people I know still use the n-word without a trace of embarrassment. There are plenty of whites-only establishments. In one town I visited several years ago I was shocked that there were separate Mardi Gras parades, one for white floats and one for black.

    And far worse than this segregation is the total lack of economic opportunity that it fosters. Go to WalMart, and you’ll see very few blacks. It’s too expensive. They shop at Fred’s where they can get a tube of toothpaste for a dollar. (Made in China with illegal ingredients, but that’s a different rant.)

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad this time this story is on CNN, was even on the front page of the Guardian here. But do you remember Shaquanda Cotton a few months ago? Until bloggers got on that case, which had been going on for more than a year, the national media couldn’t have cared less that a 14 year old black girl was sentenced to 7 years in prison for shoving a teacher.

    And sadly, on Friday police arrested a young man and his underage friend, who were driving around Alexandria with nooses hanging off their pickup. This isn’t just the older generation of bigots; their children are also alive and well and just as bigoted. So I don’t see this changing for another generation or two.

    By then, of course, Louisiana may literally be off the map, if current sea level predictions come true. Those whites-only trees in Cenla will be downed by hurricanes, not enlightenment.

  27. Kathy says:

    KathyF, that’s just depressing. I’d hoped we had come farther than this.

  28. Joe Nate says:

    I think it is time you stopped looking at the color of the person doing the crime and just look at the crime. Because someone is black doesnt mean they should get away with attacking a teacher. Just pathetic, quit using emotion to base your judgments. This type of thinking is what produced hate crime legislation, which is a farce and should be challenged. Racist blacks and pandering whites is what will cause this country to continue in this hateful cycle. Instead of encouraging the children to read and learn, you want to continue to hand them a check every month, keep them on the corner and promote rap music– cause you know there are only 2 ways out of the hood– rappin’ or playin’ ball!!! Instead of listening to Jackson and Sharpton bitch, why dont you listen to Cornell West or Tavis Smiley. Good day.

  29. KathyF says:

    Actually, Tavis Smiley was all over the Cotton story.

  30. Kathy says:

    Joe Nate, there’s a big difference in letting someone “get away with attacking a teacher” and sending a 14-year-old to prison for seven years — an experience that would almost certainly result in making her into a hardened criminal and would benefit society not at all. Perhaps you should review the concept of “nuance”.

  31. FedUp says:

    Blah Blah thats all I hear. Stop blaming other people for your problems and do something with your life. Its always the “white” mans fault. We invented crack, we caused slavery, we cause black on black crime– its all our fault. When someone from their own race stands up and confronts them about it and tells the truth, that person is berated and called an Uncle Tom. If there were more Bill Cosby’s in the world, it would probably be a better place. Instead of looking at the Jena or Cotton case, how about looking at the big picture. There are racists in the world and they are of all different colors. Yes, Jena could be handled differently but it wasnt and all that can be done is to learn from it. That is obviously not good enough, certain groups want the black kids released and the white kids to have their lives ruined because they played a prank. Lets take a look at what got us to this point. Everything these days is centered around race. If you are white you cant say anything about another race or you will be crucified in the media but let a person of color make such a remark and nothing is said of it. Until we can admit that there is a double standard, race relations will never improve.

  32. Kathy says:

    Oh, goody. Another commenter who didn’t read the post. Or actually not another commenter — just a Joe Nate sock puppet. If your whiteness makes you so superior (as well as downtrodden), why aren’t your reading comprehension skills any better? Or is that the fault of black people as well?

  33. mooncat says:

    Just so y’all know, Joe Nate and FedUp have links to Left in Alabama embedded in their names. Maybe they like our blog or something. Anyway, they aren’t in any way affiliated with Left in Alabama and I sure don’t endorse their views — don’t think the rest of our community would either.

  34. Kathy says:

    No worries, mooncat. Nobody who knows you or reads Left in Alabama would associate you with Joe Nate/FedUp. What I can’t figure out is why he insists on associating himself with you. You’d think he wouldn’t want the reputation of hanging out with liberals. :)

  35. FedUp says:

    All right, now that I have your feathers ruffled, let the gloves come off and start the name calling. Its ironic how “you people” want to be so openminded but you never want to listen to anyone elses ideas or opinions. So therefore, you are the ones that are narrowminded and shallow. It could be our group trying to infiltrate your little community. Just make sure that you come back with witty, smart ass remark– that makes you look so much more intelligent to your peers.

  36. Is anyone going to attend the Christianity vs Science debate at the Alyce Stephens Center? It should be great. I wonder why of all the places in the US they decided on Bham AL? http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/dawkins-vs-lennox-at-the-university-of-alabama-get-your-tickets-now/

  37. ALmod says:

    There’s a conflict between Christianity and science? News to me.

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