Forget Iran, let’s pursue regime change in Jena, Louisiana

July 11, 2007

I heard this story on the Democracy Now podcast. might be the most effed up thing I’ve ever heard of.

Here’s the condensed version: There’s this tree in the schoolyard in Jena, Louisiana, where white kids hang out. Three black boys sit under the tree one day, and then the next day there are three nooses hanging from the tree.

It was in the early morning. I seen them hanging. I’m thinking the KKK, you know, were hanging nooses…I was disappointed, because, you know, we do little pranks — you know, toilet paper, that’s a prank, you know what I’m saying? Paper all over the square, all the pranks they used to do, that’s pranks. Nooses hanging there — nooses ain’t no prank.Robert Bailey, student

So the school finds out who hung the nooses, and suspends three white students for three days. A group of black students stage a protest, in which they all go and sit under the tree. Prompting the local DA to make a visit to the school:

The kids didn’t say anything. They were listening. The kids were quiet. And so, District Attorney Reed Walters, you know, proceeded to tell those kids that “I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” And the kids were just — it was like in awe that the district — you know, Reed Walters would tell these kids that. He held a pen in his hand and told those kids that, “See this pen in my hand? I can end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” — Michelle Rogers, mother

Believe it or not, things escalate from there. A black kid gets beaten up at a party. A white kid pulls a sawed-off shotgun on a group of black boys, presumably in self defense. The black boys take the gun and report the incident to the police, after which they are charged with the theft of the gun.  In November, somebody (justifiably, at this point) tries to burn down the school.  Four days later, there’s a fight.  A white kid is sent to the hospital.  Here’s what happened next, according to Democracy Now:

The victim was taken to hospital and released shortly with a concussion. He attended a school function that evening. Six black students were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, on charges that leave them facing between twenty and one hundred years in jail. The defendants, ranging in age from fifteen to seventeen, had their bonds set at between $70,000 and $138,000. The attack was written up in the local paper as fact, and DA Reed Walters published a statement in which he said, “When you are convicted, I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law.”

One of these kids has already been convicted and faces 22 years in prison.  His court appointed lawyer called no witnesses in his behalf.  The judge placed this kid’s parents on the witness list, then issued a gag order barring witnesses from entering the courtroom or speaking out on the case.   The parents were never called to testify.

We don’t have a race problem. It’s not black against white. It’s crime. The nooses? I don’t even know why they were there, what they were supposed to mean. There’s pranks all the time, of one type or another, going on. And it just didn’t seem to be racist to me. — Barbara Murphy, Town librarian.

There you go.



  1. Holy Smokes! What is this world coming to? Are people just that indifferent…just that hateful…just that ignorant? Didn’t think the nooses were a hate crime? What? Isaiah Washington–this is racism (on many many levels)!

  2. All examples of how the world, in many ways, has not changed. I’m depressed just reading this — knowing that so much ignorance is manifested in violent and systemic ways.

  3. Duck

    Unfreaking real, dude. You beat me to it. Not only that, but you beat me to it THROUGH Democracy Now. I´m grinning huge while I eat my humble pie and I am linking my (tardy) Jena 6 entry to your (on time) one.

    You rock.


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