As the Rev. Al Sharpton heads to Congress to discuss nooses and hate crimes, Mychal Bell, the 17-year-old who is the focus of many of the stories surrounding the “Jena 6″ is back in a juvenile detention facility after a brief taste of freedom.
The story of the six Louisiana teens stirs emotions for many people who have been following the case. It is easy to get caught up in the hype. This story is set in the deep south, where backwards attitudes still exist (ask me about my visit to Bosco Louisiana).
First nooses were hung on a tree at the high school where black students tried to gather in August last year, there were several off campus confrontations between some of the “Jena 6″ students and white students, then last December the “fight,” that left a white student, Justin Barker knocked out after one hit. Mychal Bell who was 16 at the time allegedly led the attack, and the others apparently stomped Barker after his lights were out.
Many believe the nooses were the catalyst for the situation, though U.S. Attorney Donald Washington says there isn’t a link between the noose incident and the beat down. That didn’t stop thousands from marching in the small town of 3-thousand people on September 20.
Some of the locals including District Attorney Reed Walters who is prosecuting the teens worried that Jena would be destroyed by the mob of angry Blacks. Walters even went so far to say that Jesus Christ intervened and protected Jena from the protestors. Anyone who knows the history of civil rights would understand that peaceful demonstrations are the rule in general. Personally, it was great to witness and report on the gathering of thousands who rallied for the cause.
The following week, I returned to do a follow up report after Mychal Bell was released. I spoke to a local Jena resident and the father of Jena Six student Theo Shaw. Both seemed to indicate the students were on a reckless path, not listening to the advice of their parents, or others in the community who warned them about their ways. It’s been widely reported that Bell was already on probation for another violent situation, when he decked Barker. A person familiar with all of the players in the case said the DA was trying to be reasonable with the teens until they mouthed off and showed no regard for their actions.
Walters has been stigmatized in the media as being a good ‘ole boy, though the U.S. Attorney’s office says he was within the bounds of law when he charged the teens as adults because the shoes used in the stomping were considered to be deadly weapons. Barker however was treated for minor injuries and attended a school event the same day of the assault. While in Jena, I spoke with several locals who said that problems of racism have been exaggerated by the media, though Blacks tend to feel like the town is still ass backwards.
Should the six teens have been charged as adults? It certainly seems excessive, but some in the community believe that Walters was sending a much needed message. Should the students who hung the nooses have been prosecuted for committing a “hate crime?” According to U.S. Attorney Washington, the students involved would have needed to have some sort of criminal history before they could be charged with a federal hate crime.
The actions of the six certainly can’t be condoned, and it’s interesting to see how some are getting star treatment. Two were spotted on the red carpet of the BET Hip Hop-Awards.
Will there be any justice? It’s evident that the law is going to keep Mychal Bell in jail because of his transgressions, but I believe youngstas need to understand that in America, Black males are targets, the law will use any excuse to incarcerate, and violence is never a solution regardless of the wrong committed by another.