September 29 Update - Mychal Bell was bonded out of jail late this week. Bail was reduced to $45,000 after Bell's case was transferred to the juvenile justice system.
September 26 Update - Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco announced tonight that District Attorney Walters of LaSalle Parish had decided not to appeal the overturning of Mychal Bell's conviction as an adult and to pursue the case in the juvenile court system. Blanco encouraged Walters to take this action. She announced the decision in a news conference with civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.
Here's a link to a news article on the case: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/10056186.html
September 22 Update - Mychal Bell's conviction was overturned on appeal on grounds that he should not have been tried as an adult. However, Bell was not released pending a decision on how his case will be handled.
Despite the decision by the appeals court, tens of thousands of people gathered in Jena on Thursday, September 20 to show support for the Jena Six and to press local authorities to drop all charges. The demonstration received widespread news coverage. It made the front page of the Bloomingon, IN newspaper along with newspapers in more likely places.
September 4 Update - CNN is now covering the "Jena Six" story. Here's a link to their latest article on http://www.cnn.com/.
MSNBC reported today that charges against two of the six African-American have been reduced.
"On Tuesday, charges against Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. That same reduction was made earlier for Mychal Bell, who was tried and found guilty and could be sentenced to 22½ years at a hearing Sept. 20."
Here's a link with MSNBC's complete story.
August 30 - Recently the case of the so-called "Jena Six" has received attention from the national press.
Jena, Louisiana is a small town where there have been several incidents involving both white and African-American high school students, starting with white students hanging red, white and blue nooses from a tree on the high school grounds after African-American students "violated" unwritten school rules by sitting at a table under the tree. The hanging of the nooses and other actions by white students have been treated as pranks or disciplined with "in school suspensions" by officials in the 86% white town. Actions by African-American students have been met with intimidating rhetoric by local officials and with felony charges. These African-American students are the "Jena Six." Actions in support of fair treatment of these students under the law are being taken, and future actions, including a rally in Jena on September 20 are being planned by citizens across Louisiana and elsewhere.
Here's a link to a Newsweek story on the case.
Here's a copy of an e-mail I sent to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco urging her to use her influence to insure fair treatment of the "Jena Six."
Dear Governor Blanco,
Your actions as Louisiana’s governor these last three and a half years have demonstrated your commitment to both fair treatment and the best interests of all citizens of Louisiana.
In this light, I urge you to use your presence and influence to provide fair treatment for a group of African-American youth known as the "Jena Six". For whatever reason—ignorance, racism, power--these young people have been subjected to unfair treatment as regards several confrontations in the Jena, LA high school community. Aggressive actions, some with racial overtones, by white youth have been dismissed as pranks or disciplined with in-school suspensions. Sometimes retaliatory and sometimes defensive actions by the African-American students have been met with felony charges by local law enforcement officials. Rhetoric by those officials indicate a prejudicial attitude toward the African-American students. Efforts by the ACLU and other organizations to assist the Jena Six are derided by local officials as "outside meddling", a phrase reminiscent of the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and ‘60s. Observers from across the political spectrum are decrying the evident miscarriage of justice in these cases.
At this point, the Jena Six face a range of criminal charges that threaten their freedom as young adults. I implore you to bring your fair-minded approach to government and the people to bear on the situation to insure that the Jena Six receive fair treatment under the law.