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Mon, 12.04.2006

The Jena Six Teenagers Are Convicted

*On this date in 2006, the Jena Six were convicted. They were six Black teenagers accused and convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana. Barker was injured in the assault by the members of the Jena Six and received treatment for his injuries at an emergency room.

While the case was pending, some media commentators cited it as an example of racial injustice in the United States, due to a belief that the defendants had initially been charged with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly.

A number of episodes took place in and around Jena in the months before the Barker assault, which had been linked to an alleged escalation of racial tensions. These events included the hanging of nooses from a tree in the high school courtyard, two violent confrontations between white and black youths, and the destruction by fire of the main building of Jena High School.

The incidents were often linked in the extensive news coverage regarding the Jena Six Black individuals (Robert Bailey, then aged 17; Mychal Bell, then 16; Carwin Jones, then 18; Bryant Purvis, then 17; Jesse Ray Beard, then 14; and Theo Shaw, then 17) were arrested in the assault on Barker. One, Mychal Bell, was initially convicted as an adult of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. His convictions were overturned on the grounds that he should have been tried as a juvenile. Before a retrial in juvenile court, he pleads guilty to a reduced charge of simple battery. The other five defendants later plead no contest and were convicted of the same offense.

The Jena Six case sparked protests as excessive and racially discriminatory. The protesters asserted that white Jena youths involved in other incidents were treated leniently. On September 20, 2007, between 15,000 and 20,000 protesters marched on Jena in what was described as the "largest civil rights demonstration in years". Other protests were held in other US cities on the same day. Other responses included songs alluding to the Jena Six, and editorials and opinion columns, and Congressional hearings.

Reference:

ACLU.org

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