Did you know a school fight could lead to charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder which carries a penalty of 80 years?
For six black high school boys in Jena, Louisiana, this could be their fate. And what is worse, these young men did not provoke the chaos to begin with. The school fight was the culmination of growing racial tension in the near all-white town of 3,000 that had been escalating for months.
One would think, by the nature of such serious charges, that the victim received life-threatening injuries. Not so, according to the moving YouTube video documentary of Michael David Murphy.
The wave of problems started last September when Black high school students asked for permission to sit under a tree at an area of the high school that had, traditionally, been used only by white students. The next day, three nooses were hanging from the tree… The following week, Black students staged a protest under the tree. (“Louisiana Justice on Trial” by Jordan Flaherty)
This backdrop of events set the stage for a series of violent eruptions in the small southern town.
According to many in Jena, tensions simmered in the town throughout the fall, occasionally exploding into fights and other incidents. No white students were charged or punished, including the students found to have been responsible for hanging the nooses. Bryant Purvis, one of the Black students now facing charges, stated that after the incident, “There were a lot of people aggravated about it, a lot of fights at the school after that, a lot of arguments, and a lot of people getting treated differently.”(Jordan Flaherty).
Eddie Griffin Commentary
It is incomprehensible to think that a school fight that resulted in a few minor bruises and a black-eye could lead LaSalle Parish District Attorney J. Reed Walters to throw the book at six African-American male teenagers. Clearly, the charges are inflated. But then again, when it comes to southern justice, DAs tend to always score a “slam dunk” against young African-American men, no matter how outrageously disproportionate the charges are. It also partially explains why one-out-of-three black males go to prison.
Although the original charges were tempered somewhat, 17-year old Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, could still face up to 20 years after being found guilty by an all-white jury.
In the context of these reported events, the case of the Jena Six is more than hysterical justice gone berserk. It is a return to the old ways in which justice was handed down in Louisiana before the Civil Rights Movement. But then I wonder: Did it ever change?
The sacred rule of law in the South is as much a farce as Jim Crow, which is why African-Americans have always had to call upon the international community for Justice. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37 provides:
States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;
(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;
Although the Convention does not exclude juveniles from judicial punishment, the clear intent of all subscribing “civilized” nations is to save the child from arbitrary and excessive punishment and proscribe the use of incarceration as “a measure of last resort”. It is no wonder that the United States is only one of two countries who, to this date, has refused to sign this convention for the Rights of the Child.
As an advocate and Adult Friend for the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC), I am compelled by facts and evidence to declare the Case of the Jena Six juvenile defendants as an abhorrent abuse of police powers in the State of Louisiana and other southern states where black children are prosecuted above and beyond the nature of their offenses. This genocidal practice has robbed the black community of its youth and its future through a heavy-handed and bogus juridical process.
What can be done to stem the tide in these types of injustices?
After reviewing the Michael David Murphy video, if you agree that this is a grievous miscarriage of justice, PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION to the US Justice Department Civil Rights Division. And give your support to FREE THE JENA SIX Campaign organized by Friends of Justice.