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1000s Protest in Jena (and Elsewhere)

Posted Sep 20, 2007 10:58 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In a protest largely launched by bloggers that some are calling the dawn of a new 21st century civil rights movement, more than 15,000 people from around the country reportedly marched on a tiny town in Louisiana today.

Their goal: to protest what many see as an unfair justice system that treats blacks more harshly than whites. The catalyst of the protest was a decision to charge six African-American high school students in Jena with attempted murder over an alleged beating incident that reportedly left the injured victim with a black eye but able to go out the same evening, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.

Although a state appeals court has overturned the conviction on lesser charges of the one student whose case so far has been adjudicated, Mychal Bell, the prosecution intends to retry him and he remains in jail. However, ongoing national concern about the so-called Jena Six seems to be having an effect, reports the New York Times.

"Even as demonstrators marched in Jena, which is 85 percent white, an appellate court ordered an emergency hearing to determine why Mr. Bell had not been released," the newspaper writes. In addition, national concern is credited with having apparently encouraged the reduction of the original attempted murder charges against Bell and the other five students.

Sympathy protests were also held today in other cities throughout the country. In Los Angeles, 100 demonstrators blocked a portion of Sunset Boulevard for about an hour, reports the Los Angeles Times. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 protesters marched in Jena itself, according to Louisiana state police, another Los Angeles Times article reports.

"I want my children to be part of history," said A.J. Walker, 33, a black Houston police officer who photographed her children outside Jena's high school. "I want to show them they have to stand for something."

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