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Louisiana

“All Eyes on Jena” - Protest Planned for Sept. 20

by Chapin Gray |
September 18, 2007

Jena, LA - Momentum continues to build in the campaign for the Jena 6, a group of high school students that were arrested on trumped-up charges for a schoolyard fight. Though the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed charges against one defendant, Michael Bell, ruling that the 17-year old should not have been tried in adult court, thousands still plan on traveling to Jena on Thursday to protest what is being called, “a modern day lynching.”

Bell - the first of the Jena 6 to be tried - was convicted of second-degree aggravated assault and was set to face sentencing on Sept. 20. Though his charge has been thrown out, Bell still waits in jail, unable to make the outrageous $90,000 bail. Meanwhile, the white students who hung the three nooses on the ‘whites-only tree’ and kicked off the escalation of racial tensions at Jena High were suspended for only three days, for what school administrators call a harmless ‘prank.’

"Nooses are a threat, and can’t be perceived as anything else," said Jim Toweill, a University of Alabama student who plans on attending the massive civil rights march planned for Thursday. “It's a hate crime, period.”

Schools, churches and civil-rights organizations from as far away as New York will be sending buses down to Jena, while rallies will be held on dozens of college campuses. There is also a call for supporters to wear black on Thursday, as a way to show solidarity with the Jena 6 and their families.

As the date of the rally draws closer the movement has spread beyond the south, to the entire world. The courts have been pressured to backtrack. In an attempt to quell the outrage the courts are reducing charges or, in Bell’s case, throwing out the charges entirely. Five of the Jena six still await trial, and face prison sentences.

Organizers of the Sept. 20 rally - originally planned to coincide with Bell’s sentencing- promises to be a historical event, with around 10,000 expected to come to this small Louisiana town to take a stand against racial injustice.

Jena proves what many already know, that the court system is racially biased. Both the school administration and the courts condoned the racist threats by giving leniency to the white students, while at the same time are trying to lock young Black students behind bars for 10 to 20 years. This is unacceptable, and because of the enormous outcry against the arrests and the outpouring of support and mobilizations for the Black students, the whole world now has its eyes on Jena.

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