As the nation focused on what many have called the beginning of the twenty-first century’s civil rights movement, dozens of UT students showed their support for the “Jena Six” last week by wearing black.
Many of those sporting black clothing around campus last Thursday said they first learned about the “Jena Six” from popular internet social sites.
“I didn’t know anything about this situation until I was on the net and one of my friends [invited] me to join a group about the ‘Jena Six.’ I’m just surprised the media didn’t pick up on it sooner because this is a very important story,” said Celia Lopez.
Another student, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, told The Minaret, “I decided to participate and show my support last week Thursday for the Jena 6 because I thought that what they were doing to those six young boys was wrong.
“It is just completely unfair to charge them with crime like this,” added the junior Biology major. “To charge them as adults and not minors is just ridiculous. So I just wanted to publicly show my support for those young boys.”
For months, the story of the “Jena Six” unfolded largely out of sight of the mainstream media.
However, Internet blogging and online social groups have pushed the story into the public eye.
On the social networking site Facebook.com, nearly 2,000 people have joined a group called “Free the Jena 6.” They share not only outrage but also petitions and details about rallies. More than 500 similar groups also exist in support of the teens.
The phrase “Jena Six” refers to a group of black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana who have been accused of beating up a white classmate.
The boys were initially facing charges of attempted murder for the brawl, but the charges were later reduced to battery for all but one who was charged as a juvenile.
The tensions stem from a racially motivated fight that began underneath an old tree at Jena High School.
According to CNN, the battle began when several black students sat underneath a tree that was considered to be reserved for white students. According to reports, white students retaliated by hanging nooses from the tree. Their resulting punishment was three days of suspension.
Several off-campus fights were reported, and on Nov. 30, someone set fire to the school’s main academic building. The arson is still unsolved, but many suspect it was connected to the racial discord.
Four days after the arson, six black students attacked a white classmate, knocking him unconscious while stomping and kicking him.
The student was treated at a hospital, released the same day and attended a school function that same night.
Still, bail for the “Jena Six” was set at between $70,000 and $138,000. All but 17-year-old student Mychal Bell posted bond; the judge had refused to lower his $90,000 bail, citing Bell’s criminal record, which includes four juvenile offenses, including two other battery charges.
Bell is also the only one of the six teenagers to have stood trial so far.
According to information on CNN’s web site, the district attorney won convictions on two charges, but Bell’s convictions were overturned by the appellate court.
Thousands of protesters swarmed into the small town, and as a result the state’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a bond hearing for Bell, which was held last Friday.
As of press time, Bell has not been released from jail.