Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I support the Jena 6

article borrowed from the Wikians

Racial tensions resurfaced in Jena on September 1, 2006, when hangman's nooses were discovered in an oak tree on the campus of Jena High School after a black student had asked the vice principal if he and some friends could sit under the tree, where white students had typically congregated. The school administration recommended that the noose-hangers be expelled. The elected La Salle Parish School Board overruled the school, he and the three white student perpetrators received in-school suspension.

On November 30, 2006, an arson fire destroyed the main academic building at the school. On December 4, a fight broke out on campus, after which six African-American students, later dubbed the Jena 6, were arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder.

The six accused of attempted second-degree murder are black and were fighting a white student after what they claimed to have been a week of intimidation by white students, including the one who was assaulted.

Intimidation cited includes an incident in which a white student brandished a gun at the black students while at a convenience store after a verbal exchange. Black students allegedly wrestled away the gun and were then held in custody and charged with theft while no charges were made against the white student.

On June 26, 2007, the first day of trial for Mychal Bell, one of the defendants, the prosecutor agreed to reduce the charges for Bell to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery.

Bell was found guilty by an all-white jury, and will face the possibility of up to twenty-two years in prison when he is sentenced. The sentencing was originally scheduled for July 30, but has been delayed. However, the case is currently in dispute, as the court-appointed public defender did not call a single witness in his attempt to defend Bell. The other five students will be tried at a later date.

On August 24, 2007, a bond hearing was held for Mychal Bell. Judge J.P. Mauffray ruled against Bell, citing four prior violent crimes in his past and three parole violations. The Judge admitted being in error because the prior crimes were sealed juvenile cases.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out Mychal Bell's conviction, stating that he should have never been tried as an adult as he was sixteen years old at the time of the incident. The ruling does not affect the other teenagers in the case because they were all seventeen years of age, or the age of legal consent, in Louisiana at the time of the incident.

Though local citizens strongly defend their town, Jena has gained international attention for alleged "new 'stealth' racism" that lives on in the United States as reported in a National Public Radio prime time story on July 30. The town also featured in a BBC documentary, This World: "Race hate in Louisiana".


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