Sanduskians march for 'Jena 6'

SANDUSKY From Louisiana to Sandusky, the people are calling for justice. The
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

From Louisiana to Sandusky, the people are calling for justice.

The Sandusky NAACP led a protest Thursday to show solidarity for the six black high school students charged with attempted murder and conspiracy in the beating of a white student in Jena, La.

Protesters walked six laps around the Erie County Courthouse building at 5 p.m. -- one lap for each of the young men, known nationally as the "Jena 6."

The Rev. Albert Porter, a minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church, said most people don't really know what's still going on in the United States.

"Some people have become comfortable and think that civil rights is over," Porter said.

After walking past the prosecutor's office as a symbolic gesture and beginning with a prayer, more than 40 people marched around the courthouse singing and chanting, "Justice for the Six."

"I've been through some things with the judicial system myself," said David Inman, 16, a junior at Perkins High School who participated in the protest.

"I wanted to support these kids because I know what they're going through."

On Dec. 4, 2006, in Jena, La., six black students ages 15-17 were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder after they attacked a white classmate, kicking and beating him after they knocked him unconscious. Charges for three of the six have since been reduced to second-degree battery.

They have become known as the "Jena 6." Four of the six defendants are being tried as adults in the case; one student's conviction was thrown out last week with an appeals court saying he shouldn't have been tried as an adult.

"We're not saying they didn't do it. We're saying that (the punishment) is too much," Inman explained.

Racial tensions escalated in the rural Louisiana community after a black student at Jena High School sat beneath a tree where usually only white students sat. The next day, nooses were hung from the branches of the tree. The white students who hung the nooses received three-day suspensions from school.

Mychal Bell,17, the first of the six to face trial, has already been found guilty of two felonies: second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit second-degree battery. He may now serve more than 20 years in prison. Though a state appellate court has vacated his second-degree conspiracy conviction on the grounds he should have been tried as a juvenile, Bell remains in jail on $90,000 bond as his battery conviction still stands.

The other five defendants awaiting trial are Robert Bailey, 17; Theo Shaw, 17; Carwin Jones, 18; Bryant Purvis, 17; and Jesse Beard, 15.

Sept. 20 was the named the National Day of Action to raise awareness for the Jena 6 situation.

Teresa Buchanan, 49, of Sandusky said she wasn't able to travel to Louisiana for the protest.

"But I can do something right here," she said. "Enough is enough. Let the time fit the crime."

"This could happen anywhere, to anybody," said Steve Schenk, 21, of Sandusky, who also participated in the local protest. "It's our generation, this is my generation."

According to national media reports, thousands of demonstrators, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, filled the streets of Jena on Thursday to show support for the six defendants.

Jena is a rural town in Central Louisiana with a population of about 4,000 people, 85 percent of whom are white. Many of the town's black residents are calling the trial a case of "Jim Crow justice," according to CNN reports.

"It's not just happening in Louisiana," said Ida Alexander, local NAACP president. "We're saying enough is enough."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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