Across the nation, and here on camous, on Thursday Sept. 20, 2007, people protested and spoke out against the prosecution of the “Jena 6,” six teenagers who were accused of beating a white classmate in Jena, La. The beating occurred on Dec. 4, 2006 and left the victim unconscious.At West Chester University, students rallied outside of Sykes Student Union in support of the black teenagers.
Approximately 40 people gathered chanting “Black power,” “No justice no peace” and “Racial inequality,” Black Student Union President Shaneka Roberts said.
Roberts said that some students wore black or green to show support and that the protest was organized by word of mouth.
“You should be judged by a jury of your peers,” Roberts said. “They [the Jena 6 teens] weren’t judged by their peers.” The teen’s peers are African American males of the same age, according to Roberts, but “they were judged by white people.”
Reed Walters, the district attorney in Jena said that this is not a matter of race, but finding justice for an innocent victim.
“I cannot overemphasize what a villainous act that was. The people that did it should be ashamed of what they unleashed on this town,” Walters said.
Four of the six teenagers were 17-years old the time of the beating; however, one of the boys, Mychal Bell, who was 16-years old at the time of the incident, has been in jail since January and has been unable to post bail.
He was initially tried as an adult, but Bell’s attorney had requested that Bell be tried as a juvenile. Bell is the only member of the “Jena 6” to be tried thusfar.
Five of the six may be charged with battery according to a Sept. 20 Associated Press article by Mary Foster.
At Jena High School in Louisiana, three white boys at the high school were suspended for hanging nooses from a tree located on the Jena High School campus. This took place prior to the beatings.
According to a Sept. 19 Philadelphia Inquirer article by Pete Mucha, two buses left the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia to participate in the “civil rights demonstration” in Jena, La. According to the same article, stores in Jena closed for the day and businesses and homeowners placed “no parking” signs in front of their properties to distance protestors.
Participants chanted “Enough is enough” while wearing T-shirts that read “Free Jena 6,” according to a Sept. 21 USA Today article written by Marisol Bello.
Prosecutors are expected to hold a hearing no later than Sept. 24, to determine the validity of Bell’s incarceration.
Nicole Fortuna is a second-year student of the Honors College majoring in Literature with a minor in Linguistics. She can be reached at NF626790@wcupa.edu.