(Washington, DC)- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) told a crowd gathered on the Capitol grounds that he is holding a forum next week and plans to hold hearings to address the case of six teenagers in Jena, Louisiana who were charged with attempted murder for a schoolyard fight. Conyers spoke during a rally of support for the students, now being called the “Jena Six,” in Washington, in coordination with rallies in Jena and other U.S. cities.
Last week, the same appeals court vacated Bell's June conviction for aggravated second-degree battery, ruling that Walters had improperly prosecuted him as an adult rather a juvenile. Walters has vowed to appeal that ruling and has already initiated juvenile proceedings against Bell. The prosecutor also said Wednesday that he would vigorously pursue his cases against the rest of the teenage defendants, insisting that their white victim had been forgotten amid the controversy.
The only thing that has been forgotten are the charges against Barker for bringing a loaded shotgun to school after the beating. This seems particularly convenient given that Barker was a prop at the press conference Walters held yesterday. Walters has now failed to press charges in every incident involving the aggression of a white student in Jena, including the beating of Theo Shaw at a an all white party. Shaw is one of the Six charged in the beating of Justin Barker.
I recently visited Billy “Bulldog” Fowler in his office. He’s a white member of the LaSalle Parish School Board. He says Jena is being unfairly painted as racist. He feels the hanging nooses were blown out of proportion, that in the high school setting it was more of a prank: “This is the Deep South, and [older] black people know the meaning of a noose. Let me tell you something—young people don’t.”
If that seems like a completely unsubstantiated assumption, that's because it is. Robert Bailey, one of the Jena Six, knew clearly what the noose meant when he saw it.
That night, I went to see the Baileys in their mobile home in Ward 10, one of the black neighborhoods in Jena. Two of the Jena Six, Robert Bailey and Theo Shaw, were ironing their clothes. I asked them what they thought when they saw the nooses. Robert immediately said: “The first thing came to mind was the KKK. I don’t know why, but that was the first thing that came to my head. I used to always think the KKK chase black people on horses, and they catch you with rope.”
So much for that argument.
In addition, Goodman revealed in her column yesterday that Walters refused to allow the Jena School Board to review the school's investigation of the noose incident, a proper response to which could have ended the turmoil in Jena just after it began. The white students who hung the nooses were suspended for several days. The principal of the school resigned in disgust. At the School Board meeting, Walters denied the Board access to vital information before they were asked to vote on the expulsion of the Jena Six.
The African-American teens were dealt with differently. They were expelled, but appealed to the school board. The school district had conducted an investigation, but the school board was not allowed to review it. The school board’s lawyer was none other than the prosecuting district attorney, Reed Walters.
Board member Fowler recalls the January meeting: “Our legal authority that night was Mr. Walters.”
I asked, “And he told you, you couldn’t have access to the school proceedings, or the investigation?”
Fowler replied: “That’s right. [Walters said] it was a violation of something.” The board voted, without information. Fowler recalls: “It was unanimous. No, no it wasn’t. There was one board member who voted no, and that was Mr. Worthington.” Melvin Worthington, the only African-American on the school board, voted against upholding the expulsion of the black students.
Clearly, Mr. Walters had a particular outcome in mind. Hopefully, his intentions and conduct will be closely scrutinized by the House Judiciary Committee.
"The events in Louisiana have saddened me," the president said. "And I understand the emotions. The Justice Department and the FBI are monitoring the situation down there. And all of us in America want there to be, you know, fairness when it comes to justice."