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Thursday, July 5, 2007

School Fight Could Lead to 80 Years in Prison for Black Teens

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.


  1. Hello,
    Thank you for posting on the Jena Six!
    I am in Washington DC, a Communications Intern for Advancement Project.

    This case is simply appalling.
    I wrote a blog on the Jena 6 yesterday which should be up on the Advancement Project website later on today.

    I walked away from work yesterday feeling sick. Researching the history of race tensions in Jena Louisiana I sorted through so many photos of lynching and burnings. They were horrific.

    And still today I cant shake off a feeling of disgust and sickness to what is unfolding in Jena today.

    I feel like I have stepped back in time.

    The events blew me away. I am also suprised by the lack of domestic media coverage on this story.


    Although the BBC did a expose, where is the outcry on US media outlets? I am proud to be a blogger right now- it seems much of the media hits for Jena 6 are from people taking this into their own hands and spreading the word.

    I am still trying to find the best way to get involved. I have called NBC and the ACLU and emailed The Jena 6 Defense Committee. I want to be as active as I can in this critical moment in Civil Rights and American history. If anyone klnows of any good organizations that are taking volunteers, let us know. I am going to take this as far as I can. I am planning on flying to Jena for the trial. I feel too sickened by these injustices to let this play out. The LAACLU does not have a link on their splash page to the Jena 6 case the last time I checked. I have emailed them and am awaiting response.

    From my research I found some helpful links:
    Get Involved:

    An Excellent Timeline of Events for Reference:

    Sign this Online Petition

    The Jena 6 Defense Committee
    PO Box 2798, Jena, LA 71342

    Friends of Justice
    507 North Donley Avenue
    Tulia, TX 79088

    ACLU of Louisiana
    PO Box 56157
    New Orleans, LA 70156

    BBC Article

    Keep Spreading the Word!
    -Clare Bakota
    Advancement Project

  2. tHANK YOU FOR YOU AND aFROSPEARS CONTINUED COVERAGE OF THIS MATTER, WE CAN NO LONGER SIT BACK AND ALLOW THESE INJUSTICES TO BE INFLICTED UPON OUR CHILDREN, i.e., Shaquana cotton, Gernalow Wilson, and the JENA SIX. Today these are someone else's children, but tomorrow they can become our very own. It's time for black people to come together as a whole and boycott any form of racial injustices! Our children deserve a better future and we have an Obligation to the leaders that sacrifced their lives for us.


  3. Thank you all, and God bless you for your encouraging words. Every little bit helps. We're making progress.