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Demonstration here for Louisiana's Jena 6
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Power of prayer: Members of the Liberty County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People bow their heads as a prayer is said for the “Jena Six.” - photo by Photo by Emily Peterson
Although they could not join the thousands of marchers who recently descended on the small town of Jena, La. to protest what they consider unjust punishments for six black teenagers, a group of Liberty County residents found another way to display their outrage.
Members of the Liberty County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a vigil Thursday afternoon in the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church parking lot to show their support for the teens, known as the “Jena Six.”
Participants said a word of prayer and discussed what appear to be unequal penalties being levied against the young men who are accused of brutally beating a white student, following months of racial tension at Jena High School in 2006.
The trouble began when three white students hung nooses from a popular tree on campus after black students challenged the long-standing notion that only whites could gather there. The three white students responsible for the act were suspended, but not criminally prosecuted.
A number of fights between whites and blacks followed the incident, which culminated in December when a white student, Justin Barker, was beaten and knocked unconscious on school grounds. According to court testimony, his face was swollen and bloodied, but he was able to attend a school function the same night after being released from the hospital.
Five of the black teens arrested in the skirmish were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder, but those charges have since been dropped. A sixth suspect was booked as a juvenile on sealed charges.
Supporters of the “Jena Six” believe the charges against the young men are unequally severe because white students involved in the noose incident or similar fights around the same time were not charged as harshly.
Protestors hoped the last of the defendants to remain in jail would be released on Friday, but a judge denied 17-year-old Mychal Bell’s request to be freed while an appeal is being reviewed.
Bell, the only defendant to be tried in court, was convicted of aggravated second-degree battery, but his conviction was thrown out last week because a Louisiana appeals court said he could not be tried as an adult on that charge.
The other five defendants are free on bond.
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