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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

In search of justice

Posted Friday, September 21, 2007, at 10:08 AM

Thousands demonstrated Thursday in support of six black Jena, La. high school students charged with beating a white classmate after an incident stemming from who could sit under a campus tree.

"What we need is federal intervention to protect people from Southern injustice," the Rev. Al Sharpton said.

The Associated Press explains the basics well:

"The cause of Thursday's demonstrations dates to August 2006, when a black Jena High School student asked the principal whether blacks could sit under a shade tree that was a frequent gathering place for whites. He was told yes. But nooses appeared in the tree the next day. Three white students were suspended but not criminally prosecuted. LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said this week he could find no state law covering the act.

"The incident was followed by fights between blacks and whites, and in December a white student, Justin Barker, was knocked unconscious on school grounds. According to court testimony, his face was swollen and bloodied, but he was able to attend a school function that night.

"Six black teens were arrested. Five were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder -- charges that have since been reduced for four of them. (One, Mychal Bell, has found guilty but charges have been dropped after a judge ruled he should have been charged as an juvenile). The sixth was booked as a juvenile on sealed charges."

The AP story doesnt explain that comments made by Barker allegedly sparked the attack. Barker's words and the white students' hanging of the nooses, as wrong as those actions were, assaulted senses and feelings -- not someone else's body.

If the black students weren't acting in self-defense after being struck first or seriously threatened, they had no legal standing to inititate a fight. But I wonder if Jena law enforcement and district attorney Reed Walters chose to overplay this particular incident in order to make a racist "statement."

Meanwhile, the white students who hung the nooses and are the root cause of all that followed received practically no punishment for their actions.

Within the difference in levels of punishment lie cries of "injustice."

But how can you punish a group of people through the court system for their attitudes, as many think should occur?

"It is not and never has been about race," Walters told the Associated Press. "It is about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions."  Walters didn't hold the white students accountable. He claimed he couldn't find any laws under which the white students who hung the nooses could be charged. This comes from a man who, in the Bell trial, claimed tennis shoes are assault weapons when used to kick someone.

Since the nooses weren't supposed to be there, I could see at least a charge of vandalism. How about trespassing? And those nooses could be conceived as a serious threat. People can be easily prosecuted for threats.

At the least, stronger punishment than a three-day suspension should have been levied. Expulsion? No. Once a student's gone, they may never come back, and a chance to convince racists of their wrong attitudes may be lost. That is, if the school system does its job, which seems questionable in this case.

Jena doesn't seem so much a throwback to the 1960s as it does a situation in which everyone involved needs to step back and consider their own actions and attitudes.

For the record, I tend to side with the black students. But, overall, it appears that a few teenagers on both sides need to quickly do some maturing -- and a few adults in official positions need to examine their attitudes.


Comments
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Removing race from the equation, how could you possibly side with a gang of six people that blind-sides a guy walking through a doorway, knocking him unconscious, and then beating and kicking him while he lay there unconscious and unable to defend himself? I'm certainly not saying the whole noose thing was anywhere near appropriate, but that was in August and this beating occurred in December. This Barker kid wasn't even one of the ones that were suspended for hanging the nooses four months previous to the attack. You stated that "The AP story doesn't explain that comments made by Barker allegedly sparked the attack", but there is absolutely nothing that an individual could say that would warrant this sort of an attack. I've got to side with the victim. If the races were reversed, there would be VERY few people willing to side with a gang of six white kids that beat a black kid while he was lying on the ground unconscious. This was a totally reprehensible act and these kids need to be held accountable for their actions.

-- Posted by Thom on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 10:28 AM

Well stated Thom!!

-- Posted by stolen25 on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 10:45 AM

I don't feel sorry for these six teens one bit. Indifferent to their race, these teens are criminals and should receive the harsh punishments they deserve. I would say the same about a gang of white teens if they had done this to a black boy. The nooses are being used as an excuse for violent behavior by the very racist Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson when in reality the incidents are not related. I hope that the justice system does not cave due to the misplaced support the teens are receiving.

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 10:56 AM

I agree with Thom . . . if this had been reversed then there would have been a huge uproar and they would have demanded justice and that all 6 white students be charged with murder. There seems to be this double standard now in which if a white person supposedly did something against a black person then its automatically a hate crime and the person is guilty no matter what(aka Duke lacrosse players) but if a black person commits a crime then its because the "white man" has kept him down and he should be set free. Where does this mentality come from. Each and every individual should be held accountable for their own actions and there is no excuse for violence or hate no matter the skin color. If a person commits violence against someone then we should make excuses for them because most of the time they know the difference between right and wrong and they chose the latter.

What really irked me though was the comment made by Al Sharpton about "Southern injustice". He makes it sound like all people from the South are racists and this is why I dislike this man because he incites racism himself. Sharpton, just like Jesse Jackson, are a joke to civil rights. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were true leaders . . . not these clowns. but really, I get tired of this perception that Southerners are racist bigots. I know I am not and will never be!

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:01 AM

I am not a prejudice person by any means but it seems to me a lot of folks tiptoe around race. You want to be equal in life but not when it comes to being accountable of your actions. When it comes to the time where you have to pay the price for your actions you want to cry prejudice.

Hanging a noose in a tree is not a nice thing to do, (no one was hurt by hanging a noose in a tree) beating someone unconscious is criminal.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:01 AM

The comment above should say "shouldnt make excuses" in the last sentence of the first paragraph

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:05 AM

I'm not defending the accused black students for the attack itself. It was uncalled for and punishment is deserved. Note that I said the students "had no legal standing to initiate a fight."

When I say I tend to back the black students, I mean that it appears the justice system in Jena is biased.

The white students got off with far less punishment than they deserved.

-- Posted by David Melson on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:20 AM

The D.A. stated that there was no law in Louisiana for him to charge the teens under for hanging the nooses. I DO NOT CONDONE hanging the nooses,but what they did to the Barker kid was criminal and they are being turned into some kind of heroes for the black community. I guarantee you if a black kid had of been beaten by six white kids( And for argument sake, let's say that the black boys were desecrating the Confederate flag, a flag that some southerners hold near and dear so the white boys get offended and 4 months later decide to beat up a black boy not even involved), the "Al Sharpton's and the Jesse Jackson's"of the world wouldn't be coming to the white kids aid. They would be saying that justice had been carried out and praising all the good lawmakers.

I agree with Diana, while it wasn't a nice thing to do (haging the nooses) the fact remains that noone was hurt by that. Maybe their feelings were hurt, but not bodily harm.

It all boils down to creating yet another racist stereotype for the good ole South. That is about all Jesse and Al are good for. I will say it, they give African Americans a bad name. They scream racism at every turn. One day they will (hopefully) just become the boys that cried wolf one too many times.

You do the crime, you do the time....

-- Posted by stolen25 on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:36 AM

What kind of punishment should there be for hanging a noose in a tree? Would that be the same punishment for painting gang symbols on a building or overpass? Or throwing tennis shoes over an electric wire to show gang areas?

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:36 AM

Great questions Diana. Other than Vandalism, I don't think there really are any laws about hanging nooses, other than a moral law that it isn't nice to do. Other than that, the DA stated that in LA. there are no laws forbidding hanging nooses in a tree,and that raises another question completely off topic, I notice that around Halloween some people hang nooses in their trees as decorations and to "scare" kids, is that the same? Is it racist? or is it funny because it's Halloween? Should we go beat these people? yes I know the kids hung the nooses to "intimidate" but couldn't it have been (in the mindset of a teenager) also be done as a (stupid) joke? Once again I don't condone it, but I don't condone beating another human being either and then trying to garner sympathy when you get charged with the crime.

**DISCLAIMER** I am not an attorney and do not know all the laws that have been written.

-- Posted by stolen25 on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:45 AM

Nevermind reversing the races. Let's say they were all black, or all white. If six black kids jump on one black kid it might be ok. Eventually. If six white kids jump on one white kid, it might eventually be ok. Everyone would get their jail time out of it and then move on. (everyone being the gang of 6 that jumped ONE kid) However, b/c we do have two seperate races it makes the situation harder for everyone and that is sad. Al Sharpton is extremely racist and unfortunately it seems like alot of ppl in Jena, LA are that way as well.

I don't think attempted murder is appropriate as I don't think a tennis shoe has ever killed anyone. Aggrevated assault? Sounds better to me. As for the nooses, that should fall under some type of harrassment. Usually that is how they prosecute threats. Although, it could get tricky as they weren't verbal and they may not have any hard core evidence as to which students actually did it.

I don't think that Al Sharpton has ever made any situation better. The man is clearly filled with hate.

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 11:50 AM

Exactly Laura . . . it was Al Sharpton who raced to Durham and started throwing the race card against the Duke lacrosse team before any guilt was even found. I have yet to hear him apologize to those Duke players for the racism he slung against them and how he tried to rally the city against them. To me, Sharpton is no better than the KKK. They both preach their own version of hate.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 12:06 PM

Speaking of "preach" where is it exactly that the Reverends Al and Jesse practice?

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 12:13 PM

There is something to be said about someone who is always a part of the problem but seldom a part of the solution.

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 12:35 PM

Man don't you guys get that this racism thing has been going on in Jena since its conception, the media said a week before that brutal fight broke out a grown white man attacked a teenager with a bottle severly wounding him...and he got off with probation, now this is a grown man, for the prosecutor to have the nerves to come out and say he couldn't find any thing in the law that he could charge those boys with that hung the nooses...come on. Those nooses were hung because some black kids went and sit under a tree that normally white kids sit under, sounds like a hate crime to me.Someone said if the roles were reversed it would be hell to pay...going by whats happening in that town if the roles had been reversed there would be no way the prosecutor would have charged the white kids with attempted first degree murder...it is a definite pattern of discrimination when handing out sentences to white and black there and a lot of other places as well. You must also realize these are all kids and all of them haven't matured fully in rational thinking, there was no excuse for that white kid to have been beaten as bad as he was, none what so ever...i don't think that was a issue with all parties involved...but it was the punishment that was handed out to the black kids...that was over the top. I feel they need to be punished because what they did was terribly wrong, but don't try to try them as adults when there kids...if they had been white kids doing the beating there would have been no way the prosecutor would have charged them as severly..it has been a very consistent pattern of unequal justice there. Some of you are saying that the noose didn't hurt anybody...man ..some people just don't understand how emotionally upsetting this can be when not many years ago black people were hung up with those nooses all over the south, at a very alarming rate. I know that the majority of the people in the south are great fine people but lets look at racial injustice when its there, i know that the whole town of Jena is not that way but the nightmare for black people their is that there is a man that has the power that as he put it "can change your life with his ink pen" and in the case of the black kids he was definitely trying to do that. I say punish them but there is no reason to try them as adults...they didn't kill anybody and like someone said He was screaming out racial slurs and i do agree that it should have never came to blows but again these are kids...not adults. The Media said last night that the kid that was beaten is now expelled from school because he brought a shotgun to school one day...i know that this doesn't excuse the beating that he took but again here is the racial injustice, imagine what would have happen if a black kid would have brought a shotgun to school their. Some people don't like Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpton and i must admit i've had issues with them as well but in no way have they given Black people a "bad name" there human and sometimes have been in my opinion a little over zealous in there pursuit of justice but for the most part they have peeled back the cloak of racial inequality and a lot of people don't like it when the injustice is exposed. A lot of people go on living everyday and either don't want to acknowledge its existance or look the other way...since black people are the target of the majority of racial injustice its great to have people like Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton to help in that fight.

-- Posted by slingshot on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 12:49 PM

Slingshot, I will remind you that white people were also hanged with nooses, and it was SEVERAL years ago. So long ago that these kids do not remember nor do they personally know anyone who was hanged. I will almost bet on that.

Now on another note, there was injustice in Jena. I do not know that it was b/c of one race of people or another, all I know is that in my VERY UNOFFICIAL EYES it was an injustice.

Should they be charged with attempted murder....sure...if they had weapons. Are your shoes a weapon? Most likely not. Should they be charged as adults for aggrevated assault? MOST DEFINATELY. The white kids responsible for the hanging of the nooses should also be charged with....something, I just don't know what as they did not acutally strike anyone. What they did was horrible. Blame the beating he recieved on racial slurs and you have drawn yet another line....would they have beaten up a black boy for those same words? No. Then that is a hate crime in my opinion.

The situation is this....they are kids who put themselves in adult roles. They wanted to act like adults and they should be treated as such. I am not just talking about the black kids. I am talking about all involved.

The problem Al Sharpton has is that the white kids got a lesser punishment for A LESSER CRIME! He would like to see the white kids in jail, he just does not know what for. You can't charge them with the same crime as they did not strike anyone, therefore I don't think any outcome of this situation will make him happy. Sit back and watch, he will not be happy. Not until those white kids (who didn't hit anyone) are in jail for attempted murder!

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 1:15 PM

so your saying that every kid that gets in a fight should be charged as a adult or are you saying every kid that fights a white kid should be tried as an adult? Most adults that i know don't go around fighting...that is more so a kids thing. I hope and pray your insight is the minority and not the majority. No one has said charge the white kids in the same manner as the black kids....its just the punishment was too severe, again a grown white male struck a black teenager with a bottle in the same week and got probation...he also could have been charged with attempted murder and even a lesser charge-assult and battery...but no he got PROBATION. I can't believe that your saying that these kids know no one that was hanged how can you say that, i'm sure that there are cases where family members where victim to those awful crimes, you kind of brush it off which is easy for you to do, but it didn't happen to you or anyone in your family. I don't know how many times Al Sharpton has to say it, its not about the the white kids being punished its about seeing that justice is fairly given to the black kids that did the beating, they are kids not adult, no murder took place. If it was the other way around you would not have to look at Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson because they would never be prosecuted the way the black kids were.

-- Posted by slingshot on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 2:02 PM

The one kid, Mychal Bell (or however you spell his first name) was convicted four times as a juvenile for assault. At the age of 16, he has already exhausted his "I'm just a kid" defense. He should be tried as an adult and should be sentenced appropriately. As for the rest, that would all depend on their age. In most states, if you commit a violent crime (Aggravated Assault is a VIOLENT CRIME), then you will be charged as an adult at 16 or 17 anyway. I personally believe the black population of our country would be much better off without Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson (I REFUSE to refer to either of them as Reverend). They should both retire and leave the American public alone. I'm so tired of their constant racial rhetoric that to hear either of them talk makes me sick to my stomach.

-- Posted by Thom on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 2:19 PM

I'm saying, slingshot, that when SIX kids of any color jump on ONE kid of any given color they should be charged as an adult. WITH AGGREVATED ASSAULT. And you are wrong, Al Sharpton himself said "punish the white kids too". So, by all means, punish them. Charge the appropriate white kids, or mexican kids, or itallian kids with the appropriate crimes. IN THIS CASE what the white kids did could be considered an implied threat and could be viewed as harrassment. So, yes, if you can prove they did it and all that jazz charge them too. JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Take note that Al and Jesse are never around ANYTHING good. I have had black friends, mexican friends and even one who described herself as Indotalian (Indian and Itallian) all my life....I have never treated them any differently than my white friends, yet the good Reverends have never shown that on national t.v.! Wonder why? THEY GET A KICK OUT OF BEING MAD! THEY GET A KICK OUT OF MAKING YOU MAD!

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 3:05 PM

The boy who got beat up, did nothing more than call names. As far as I understand. He was not part of the hanging of nooses. He called names. NOW, think about my other point. If a black boy called them those same names, would he have been beaten? If you answer yes to this question you are lying to yourself. If you answer no then you have to wonder.....IS THAT NOT A HATE CRIME???

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 3:10 PM

Al Sharpton is a public liar and racial arsonist. This guy supposedly opposes racism and yet he lives and breathes it. He sees civil rights as a business opportunity and he capitalizes on it daily. He wants controversy. He wants hate. It keeps him in business.

Sharpton and Jackson are the worst kind of racists. They propagate hatred throughout every section of our cultural makeup. Yes, terrible things happened in the past, but you have to move past them to see a brighter future.

Sharpton and Jackson are profiteering off of the sadness and hatred in our culture, instead of forging ahead into a more positive future, they hold their people in a state of perpetual anger and hate by bringing back the past, and finding racism everywhere they look. In doing so they perpetuate the perpetual victim syndrome so prevelant in our society.

I hope that someday we will be free of people like this.

-- Posted by rebel4ever37 on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 3:52 PM

Ok, here goes with no races...

Scenario 1.

One guy gets into an altercation with three other guys and hits one in the head with a beer bottle (not wounding the victim). Is this:

A) A hate crime

B) Self defense

C) An argument between one guy and three guys and the one guy took it too far and committed assault (possibly even aggravated assault) on his victim.

Scenario 2.

One guy walks up behind another guy and hits him so hard that he knocks him unconscious. While the victim is lying on the ground, the assailant and five of his friends proceed to beat and kick the victim while he's lying there unable to defend himself. Is this:

A) A hate crime

B) Justifiable because the victim said something untoward, or

C) Blatant assault by one person with five friends that proceed to, quite literally, kick a guy when he's down.

If you answered "A" to either of these, then you are not aware that, in most states (including Louisiana) the term "Hate Crime" is used for sentencing, not as a charge in and of itself. If you answered "B" to either one, then you should consider what you would consider "justifiable" if someone were to attack one of your family members. If you answered "C" to both of these, then all of the "attackers" in both scenario 1 and 2 should go to jail.

-- Posted by Thom on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 4:03 PM

I hope and pray one day that the world will be free of Racism.

-- Posted by slingshot on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 4:20 PM

I hope and pray one day that the world will be free of Racism.

-- Posted by slingshot on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 4:20 PM

While Jesse and Al are still around, this will never ever happen. The are 2 of the worst perpatrators of racism and hate in the world today. They thrive off of it and use it to their benefit. If they didn't continually stir up hate and racism, they wouldn't be making any money and they don't want to actually have to get a job.

-- Posted by stolen25 on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 6:35 PM

I have always had a great deal of respect for Dr Martin Luther King but neither Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton are following in Dr King's footsteps by preaching hate and racism.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Sep 21, 2007, at 7:22 PM

Where do I begin,

slingshot u need to keep your feeling off ur shoulder and let the past be the past. can u tell me the last time a "black" person was hung by a noose? proberly not because it has been several several decades ago. if ole jesse and al would keep there nose out of other peoples business than you world would be a better place. I am so sick and tired of the black people using the race card every time that they do something that they now is wrond but they dont think that they are held to the same scales of justic that the white or hispanic or indians are because there great ancesters was slaves or they were hung well let me to everyone something all of our ancesters somewhere down the line was a slave to someone. but you dont see us calling the n.a.a.w.p! no because we dont have reperesentation like that because we know that if we do the crime we are going to pay the time. Does anyone know what make black skin black and white skin white. all it is is pigment and hemegoblin we will never be all the same or all one nation because the black folks want to use there poor old ancester and great great grandparents who were hung or slave as an excuse.

now do't get me wrong i am not racist at all i ahve very good friends and colleages that are black and hispanic but my think is if you want treated as on and the same as everyone else THAN ACT LIKE IT becasue we all know that the black folks can call each other the n word and nothing be said but i a white guy calles a blk folk a n word that they will get shot. end of story so my point is that in all honesty it is the white folk that is the true minority anymore. And I cant believe that mr. Melson is taking the side of the 6 blk kids becasue we all know if that was 6 white kids in shelbyville,Tn that beat 1 blk kid unconscious and then continued to kick and beat him than there would ne a riot and it would of been a hate crime. but because the roles was revirsed than the kids should get probation. And in my option a shoe can be a deadly weapon. Because if the school officals would not of gotten there and pull the blk kids of of that white boy than they proberly would of killed him or given him brain damage so if you ask me attempted 1st degreess should stick especially if he already has a record. He need to be locked up and tried to teach a less in the state prision. White or Black

-- Posted by JUSTHANINGINTN on Sat, Sep 22, 2007, at 11:34 PM

im jus as tired of all the racism as anyone else around here, im all for the "you do the crime , you do the time" concept, it only makes since, but like justhangingtn said, colored ppl whether it be black, hispanic, or iraqi, always try to play the hate crime bit, u only did it cuz my skin color crap, thats bull you know what, if you want to be treated equally, stop bringing up alll the racism, in my opinion, the ones that constantly complain about racism are the racist, all it takes is forgetting color, honor your family name, not what pigments you have in your skin.. but they always play the racism card.. get a life and treat yourself as a equal, black power? why not human power? in the end, i think the noose kids should get punishment according to their misdemeanor crime at most, but beating someone unconcious, thats criminal and a class b felony.. punish them according to their crime.. it only makes sense

-- Posted by politicallyincorrect on Sat, Sep 22, 2007, at 11:52 PM

..................................what?

-- Posted by slingshot on Sun, Sep 23, 2007, at 2:40 AM

Posted by JUSTHANINGINTN on Sat, Sep 22, 2007, at 11:34 PM

Posted by politicallyincorrect on Sat, Sep 22, 2007, at 11:52 PM

Those two comments, are strikingly similar... The lack of punctuation, and obsessive amounts of run-on sentences make it hard to read! But I do agree if the shoe were on the other foot and the races were in contrasting situations it would be an entirely different story!

BOTH would be hate crimes, and BOTH should be equally treated as such!

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Sun, Sep 23, 2007, at 1:15 PM

i'm more inclined to agree darrick, i think that the kids that administered the beating should and will be punished, but going on the consistent evidence of unequal justice their in Jena i feel like if it were reversed the white kids wouldn't have been initially given a attempted murder charge.

-- Posted by slingshot on Sun, Sep 23, 2007, at 3:43 PM

Slingshot, I can't say what the white kids would have been charged with as I am not psychic. I can say that attempted murder is not right, in my book. There are a few things I am not one is psychic (although it may help sometimes) and another is a judge. I don't understand the initial charges. It just doesn't take 6 people to beat up one person. I do think there is some racism in Jena, I think there is some racism in Shelbyville. It is everywhere you go. The important thing to remember is that white people aren't the only group of people who are racist. Kids today learn from their parents. I can't speak for every person on here but I can speak for me when I say, I was NOT raised in a racist household. I had no idea what the n word was until I went to school and some black kids were saying it to each other. So if you want a racism free world start at home. Stop pointing the finger at others and say to yourself "I can change just my small section of this earth." THEN DO IT.

On another note, I must agree with Darrick about the previous comments.

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Mon, Sep 24, 2007, at 7:51 AM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.