The case of six black boys, who face lifetime jail sentences for an alleged assault on a white peer in Jena, La., is slowly drawing the public's attention.
"Almost a year ago, in the small northern Louisiana town of Jena, a group of white students hung three nooses from a tree in front of Jena High School. This set into motion a season of racial tension and incidents that culminated in six black youths facing a lifetime in jail for a schoolyard fight.
The story that has unfolded since then is one of racism and injustice, but also of resistance and solidarity, as people from around the world have joined together with the families of the accused, lending legal and financial support, adding political pressure, and joining demonstrations and marches.
The nooses were hung after a black student asked permission to sit under a tree that had been reserved by tradition for white students only. In response to the three nooses, nearly every black student in the school stood under the tree in a spontaneous and powerful act of nonviolent protest. The town's district attorney quickly arrived, flanked by police officers, and told the black students to stop making such a big deal over the nooses, which school officials termed to be a "harmless prank." The school assembly, like the schoolyard where all of this had begun, was divided by race, with the black students on one side and the white students on the other. Directing his remarks to the black students, District Attorney Reed Walters said, "I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of a pen."
The white students who confessed to hanging the nooses never received any meaningful punishment. Nor did the white students who months later beat up a black student at a school party, nor did the white former student who threatened two black students with a shotgun. But, after these incidents, when black students got into a fight with a white student, six Black youths were charged with attempted murder, and now face a lifetime in prison. The Black students may not have been involved in the fight, but they were known to be organizers of the protest under the tree. The white student was briefly hospitalized, but had no major injuries and was socializing with friends at a school ring ceremony the evening of the fight.
Reading about this incident and how the white students, the school, the District Attorney and basically every white person in this incident acted, I am ashamed, appalled, and sickened of what has happened. This is a disgrace and shouldn't have not happened. If the white students were punished or expelled from the school for that obvious racist symbol, this whole thing probably would have not happened. This is really sad.