Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Young Democrats of Georgia Support Jena 6 Action

(some material adapted from www.colorofchange.org)

The Young Democrats of Georgia want all young people around the state of Georgia to support intervention in the Jena 6 case. This is a situation of great injustice taking place in Jena, Louisiana, a town of 4,000 predominantly white people.

Unfortunately, as at hundreds of other schools across America, black and white students at Jena High School rarely sit together. The white students gather under a big shade tree in the courtyard, while black students congregate near the auditorium.

But last year, a few days into the first semester, a new student, a freshman African American, asked the principal at an assembly, if he, too, could sit under the tree. He was told he could sit anywhere he liked. Three white boys on the rodeo team apparently disagreed. The next morning, there were three nooses in the school’s colors hanging from the “white” shade tree in the courtyard.

The message was clear. "Those nooses meant the KKK, they meant 'Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,'" Casteptla Bailey, a mother of one of the students, told the London Observer. Many in Jena's black community wanted the three white students expelled. But when the white superintendent and other school administrators investigated, they decided the nooses were a prank. Instead of expulsion or arrest, the three received in-school suspension for three days.

A few of the black athletes, the stars of the football team, took the lead in resisting. The day after the nooses were hung, they reportedly organized a silent protest under the tree. The school called in the cops and brought everyone to an assembly to be addressed by the district attorney, Reed Walters. The white kids sat on one side. The black kids on the other side. Walters told the students, “With one stroke of my pen, I can make your life disappear.” The black students said the statement was clearly directed toward them. Walters denies this.

Afterward, some whites felt triumphant; some blacks were resentful. Fights began to break out at the high school. But that year, the football team was having an unusually good season and the black athletes were a major reason why. So while there were fights throughout the fall, nobody wanted to take any action that would hurt the team. When the season was over, so was the truce.

A series of incidents of racially tinged violence occurred:

· Somebody burned down Jena High School. Whites thought blacks were responsible, blacks thought the opposite.

· Robert Bailey, a black kid, was attacked at a predominantly white party, beaten, his head split open by a bottle. The attacker was charged with battery, a misdemeanor.

· The next day, Bailey exchanged words with a white student who had been at the party. The white boy ran back to his truck and pulled out a pistol grip shotgun. Bailey ran after him and wrestled him for the gun. After some scuffling, Bailey and his friends took the gun away and brought it home. Bailey was eventually charged with theft of a firearm, second-degree robbery and disturbing the peace. The white student who pulled the weapon was not charged at all.

· Finally, Justin Barker was over heard bragging in the hallway about Robert Bailey getting his ass beat by a white man. When Justin walked into the court yard he was beaten by six black students. He went to the hospital. His injuries were declared superficial. He was released and went to a school function that night.

The six black students were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. The DA soon upped the charges to Second Degree Attempted Murder.

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. The difference between assault (misdemeanor) and aggravated assault (felony)? Use of a dangerous weapon. Sort of like the beer bottle cracked over Robert Bailey’s head. The weapon the Jena Six employed? A tennis shoe. The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender refused to mount any defense at all, instead resting his case immediately after two days of government presentation. A talented athlete, Bell had a real shot at a Division I football scholarship. He now faces up to 22 years in prison. The other five black students await trial on attempted murder charges. This week, conspiracy charges were thrown out against Mychal Bell on a technicality while the district attorney reduced attempted murder charges against two other black co-defendants.

The big shade tree in the courtyard has been chopped into firewood, but the injustice of the Jena 6 continues. There will be a rally in Jena on September 20th to bring media attention to this injustice.

Join the Young Democrats of Georgia in working to stop racial injustice in America and help turn things around by making it a political liability for the authorities of Jena to continue the racist status quo, and by demanding that the Democratic Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, intervene. Please sign the Blanco petition and donate to the Jena 6 defense fund at http://jena6.vesana.com/takeaction.

Buses will be leaving from Atlanta on September 19th to attend the September 20th rally in Jena, Louisiana. The following two contacts are specifically geared toward youth, and costs should be minimal. One is a part of a documentary and the second is sponsored by The Americans for Justice Network, www.americansforjustice.net. Here is the contact info for some of the organizers:

Adrian Williams


Jeremy Cormier

Morehouse College
President, AUC Louisiana Club

For more information on this case, please visit here, here, here, here, here and here.

For more information on the Young Democrats of Georgia, please visit www.georgiayds.org.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Thank you so much for speaking out for these young kids. They deserve the same rules, laws, and treatment that any white student would recieve. I hope that they get the justice that they are entitled too. They have already sufferd too much.