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Jena Six on the Hill

This morning, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and others spoke passionately in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the handling of the Jena Six case. Rep. Lee pointed her finger at Justice Department officials, and especially at Donald Washington, the U.S. attorney for Louisiana's western district, for not intervening... and Sharpton wondered if a standard is being set that hate crimes are OK if they're committed by minors. Are you still following the case?



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Everyone is focused on the single incident of assault in which Black students assaulted white students (which one might add was in response to racial taunting about a previous assault by white students on a Black student), but no seems to want to mention that Black students were assaulted several times before that incident occurred. In one incident, Robert Bailey Jr., one of the "Jena 6" was beaten with beer bottles when he went to a mostly white party in town. The next day, Bailey ran into a young white man who was at the party. The man pulled a gun on Bailey, but he managed to wrestle it away. The young white man wasn't charged, but Bailey was charged with theft of a firearm. You really should stop reducing this case to, "nooses hung, tensions rose, student was beaten."

Sent by Malik | 3:59 PM | 10-16-2007

According to this AP release: "New York-based civil rights activist Al Sharpton was scheduled to appear before the committee, but flight problems delayed him."

A bit of a discrepancy there, Sarah.

Malik: "no seems to want to mention that..." including Bailey himself. Bailey said nothing about a beer bottle until months after the fact.

As for the convenience store, I notice you conveniently omitted the witnesses saying that Bailey and his friend attacked and robbed Windham before chasing him to his truck. Only then, did he pull out the shotgun.

Funny how spin works, eh?

Sent by trvolk | 4:40 PM | 10-16-2007

Hi trvolk,
Thanks for your attention to the perceived discrepancy -- in fact, Sharpton did make it to the (delayed) hearing, and delivered his testimony on the Hill (after briefly maligning the airline industry for his late arrival). You can read a more recent AP story here. I'm listening to his testimony again now, and he opened with, "First let me apologize, I've been on the tarmac in New York for the last two hours, so it was the airlines not me that is responsible, but I realize this committee doesn't have oversight over the airlines, so I won't belabor the point."

Sent by Sarah Handel | 4:57 PM | 10-16-2007

Some points that you will never see in the mainstream media---

First, the reverse injustice; had six skin heads hunted down and beat a person of color senseless, would we even be having the Jena discussion?


And don't you think Al and Jesse, would be on the other side of the fence trying to convict them?

Two: I find it deplorable, (and more than a little hypocritical )that Jesse Jackson, who, last year assembled a lynch mob in Raleigh-Durham to have two white kids from Duke University sent up the creek for a hate crime they didn't commit, is now in Jena trying to free an African American kid, who actually did commit a hate crime.

Three: What exactly was wrong with white kids meeting under a tree, or for that matter, anywhere? Were they harassing others? Denying movement? Yelling racial epithets?

No. They were simply practicing their Constitutional right to free association/assembly and were ultimately denied their rights by those who were offended by so many of their color assembled in one place.

And if you want to talk about the changing landscape of American race relations, let's talk about how ???white??? has become the new 'N' word in this country. How, anything 'white' is deemed offensive, amoral and worthy of contempt. Whether it be the Winter Olympics, a GOP convention, or a tree in Jena.

Sent by groth | 5:47 PM | 10-16-2007

Growing up in the north I have never really experienced racism and I am mixed raced. It just suprises me how much racism there still is in the world, especially in America. People shouldn't be judged by what their skin color is, they should be judged by what is in their hearts. In my opinion, a racist person must have a pretty ugly heart.

Sent by Unis Charleston | 8:41 PM | 10-16-2007

"I notice you conveniently omitted the witnesses saying that Bailey and his friend attacked and robbed Windham before chasing him to his truck."

That's Windham's allegation. He claims that three Black students approached him and one shouted "We got action!" before accosting him. The only facts that are clear are that Windham brandished a shotgun, and the students wrestled it away from him, and were subsequently charged with theft of a firearm.

Sent by Malik | 9:52 PM | 10-16-2007

Federal hate crime guidlines take age into consideration. As Washington pointed out, "If these acts had been committed by others who were not juveniles, this would have been a federal hate crime, and we would have moved forward." (Note the "would have been" phrase.) Washington has also pointed out in earlier interviews that the noose-hanging incident was non-violent and that, if committed by adults, the charge would have been a misdeamenor.

The Jena district attorney's office also considered age as a factor in charging the Jena Six. No charges are expected to be filed against the youngest member of the Jena Six. He gets a bye because of his age, the same as the three students who hung the nooses. Four of the Jena Six, unlike the three students who hung the nooses, were adults under Lousiana law at the time of the attack.

Mychal Bell, unlike the students who hung the nooses, has multiple convictions for battery that predate both the noose-hanging incident and the beating of the white student at Jena High School. His sentencing on the second count of battery and destruction of property was postponed when he became implicated in the beating of Justin Barker at Jena High School. Once his conviction as an adult in the Barker beating was overturned, his sentencing on the early conviction went forward. It has nothing to do with the Jena Six Beating. He will be retried for his alleged part in the beating of Barker in juvenile court.

Following the Jena High School beating incident, the Justice Department reopened its investigation and found no link between the noose-hanging incident and the assault on Justin Barker or other confrontations between black and white students at Jena High School. Donald Washington, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, told CNN that "A lot of things happened between the noose hanging and the fight occurring, and we have arrived at the conclusion that the fight itself had no connection." He added that "We could not prove that, because the statements of the students themselves do not make any mention of nooses, of trees, of the 'N' word or any other word of racial hate." The CNN story ("U.S. Attorney: Nooses, Beating at Jen High Not Related") is
online at

Sent by Blair | 11:40 PM | 10-16-2007

Why is no one connecting the lack of action by the Justice Department to the destruction of that institution by the current administration? It seems clear that their destruction of the Civil Rights section of the Justice Department has led to inaction in cases like Jena.

Sent by JKB | 10:39 AM | 10-17-2007

No one seems to comprehend that to blacks, the noose is a symbol of the lynching violence of the segregation era.

I am of the opinion that had federal authorities intervened in the case against the Jena 6, it would not have escalated into today's media monster.

If the task force created by the Department of Justice has settled on their idea of not bringing charges against juveniles for committing hate crimes then the Department is saying that it is okay to commit a hate crime as long as you are a juvenile.

The criminal justice system in America is biased having chosen to prosecute black students as adults but refused to bring charges against white students for committing hate crimes, citing that they were juveniles.

Sent by Eric Dunbar | 8:21 AM | 10-19-2007