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*On this date in 2007, Thousands of chanting civil rights demonstrators filled the streets of Jena Louisiana.
They came in support of six Black teenagers initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate. The six teens were charged about three months after three white teens hung nooses in a tree on their high school grounds. Five of the Black teens were initially charged with attempted murder, but that charge was reduced to battery for all but one, who had yet to be arraigned; the sixth was charged as a juvenile. The white teens were suspended from school but weren't prosecuted.
Rev. Al Sharpton said, "You can't have two standards of justice." "We didn't bring race into it," "those that hung the nooses brought the race into it." He also added, “this could be the beginning of the 21st century's civil rights movement, one that would challenge disparities in the justice system.”
The district attorney who was prosecuting the teens, Reed Walters, denied that racism was involved in the charges. He said he didn't charge the white students accused of hanging the nooses because he could find no Louisiana law under which they could be charged. In the beating case, he said, four of the defendants were of adult age under Louisiana law and the only juvenile charged as an adult, Mychal Bell, had a prior criminal record.
"It is not and never has been about race," Walters said. "It is about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions." Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, said the scene was reminiscent of earlier American Civil Rights struggles. He said the punishment of some sort may be in order for the six defendants, but "the justice system isn't applied the same to all crimes and all people."
The Associated Press
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