Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Jena 6

There hasn't been much left-blogosphere attention to this case, so far. Pandagon's Pam Spaulding has written about it. But I haven' t seen it blogged about anywhere else. I first heard about it at least a month ago on Democracy Now.

The details still seem a little fuzzy to me. First example, the fight at the school in which six black kids supposedly assaulted one white kid. There was a report that a racial epithet started the fight, but that, again, is a little unclear. As is whether anyone else was involved, and whether the attack was pre-meditated (among the charges against the Six was Conspiracy, which would imply pre-meditation).

And then, as Democracy Now reported, there was the District Attorney coming to the campus amidst the initial White Tree crisis and threatening the students:

The story of the Jena Six began at the start of the school year last year, when an African American student asked at a school assembly if he could sit down under a schoolyard tree unofficially reserved for white students. The next morning, three nooses were hanging from the tree's broad, leafy branches. African American students protested, gathering under the tree. Soon after, the district attorney, Reed Walters, came to the school with the police, threatening, “I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.”

Who, or which students, were the target of this statement from the DA? All of them? The black students only? Those who hung the nooses? It is unclear what the full context of the DA''s remark was.

But in any event, the extent of the charges (Conspiracy, Second Degree Attempted Murder) and the possible sentences call to mind the abuses behind the drug arrests in Tulia, Texas a few years ago.

It's also distressing and a bit curious to read, as I did today, that the first convicted defendent, Mychal Bell, has had his conviction tossed out because Bell was tried as an adult instead of as a child. But Bell is still in jail, unable to raise the $90,000 for bail. With all the volunteers and protesters in Jena today, one would hope that they could pass the hat around, if it is as simple as that.

Fortunately, with thousands of protesters converging on Jena, the national media is finally beginning to pay attention. Hopefully we will learn more details about the charges against the 6 and if, as seems apparent, the charges are excessive, the teens will have their charges reduced or be released.

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