Jena 6: a brief timeline

In a small central Louisianan town of 3,000 (about 85 percent white) there have been several egregious racist incidents and official responses from the District Attorney and the community since September 2006 that have allowed six black teens from ages 15 to 17 to be tried as adults. UPDATES IN BOLD.

Here is a brief timeline:

August 31, 2006: A black student asks the school administration if one can sit under the tree in front of the school. The administrators say do whatever you want. The student sits under the tree. The student asked this question of the vice principal at the annual assembly that starts the school year.

September 1: The next morning three nooses in school colors are found hanging from the trees. The administration conducts an investigation and finds the three white male students who were responsible. The principal recommends expulsion for such a hate crime. Instead, the school board and superintendent overrule and approve short in-school suspensions (which also meant that their parents didn’t have to be notified). Many in the community dismiss the actions as a “prank” and that they did not constitute racism.

September 6: Shortly after the suspensions were issued, black teens (including the student-athletes later charged with second-degree attempted murder) responded to what they felt was inadequate justice by “organizing” a spontaneous protest by sitting under the tree. A school assembly was called shortly thereafter in which Reed Walters, Jena’s District Attorney, accompanied by armed police spoke and threatened students who were protesting and exercising their rights to assemble and freely speak: “I can end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” As the black teens sat under the tree, strong words were exchanged between some black and white students, which prompted the school to call the assembly. Police officers were asked to come to the assembly first and invited Reed Walters afterward. Apparently Walters was not happy about being called from work, where he was readying for an aggravated rape case. Walters was also holding the pen as he made this statement. A teacher testified to this effect (though not called at Bell’s trial).

December 1: At a nearly all-white party, a couple of blacks students (invited by some of their white friends) tried to enter, but people at the door prevented their entry and a 22-year-old white man unexpectedly punched Robert Bailey as other whites on the scene also threw punches, kicks and allegedly threw beer bottles, which forced the luckily still-conscious Bailey and his friends to leave. Though Bailey had injuries worthy of medical attention, he went directly home. Therefore, there was no medical record to verify the extent of the injuries. Police arrived, arrested the 22-year-old and charged him with simple battery. He has since plead guilty. Sentence: probation.

December 2: One of the men who participated in the attack on Bailey the previous night stopped at Gotta Go Convenience store alone. As he was about to enter, he saw Bailey and two of his friends inside. Due to contradicting stories, it is not known whether Bailey and the man exchanged words outside the Gotta Go. Fearing retaliation, the man went back to his truck and pulled out a shotgun as the three black youths exited the store. They wrestled the shotgun away from the man and then fled the scene. However, the three youths attacked were charged with assault and theft while acting in self-defense. (The logic against this is obvious. The man who pulled a shotgun should have just left the convenience store and come back another time if he feared owning up to his attack the previous night.)

December 4: On the first monday after the fight at the party, Justin Barker taunted Bailey and others about getting beat up; several witnesses say he used racial epithets to provoke Bailey. As Barker left the gym and went into the hallway, one person allegedly ran after him and threw a punch that hit Barker in the back of the head. He fell down immediately, and whether from the punch, falling onto a bench or upon hitting the floor, became unconscious. Though it’s not known to what extent his unconsciousness was apparent to the people surrounding Barker, including the youths who had been kicking him after he fell. There is also gray area as to whether the kicks were intended to severely harm or were simply provocations to have Barker get up and fight. Barker was conscious by the time the ambulance arrived. He was never officially “hospitalized,” though media reports cite two hours of treatment.

Barker, who was taken to the hospital for stitches and as a precautionary measure, actually went out to a school function that night.

Six black youths were arrested and charged. All six had been involved in the earlier protest in early September. Their bonds ranged from $70,000 to $138,000. Several families could not afford these outrageous amounts and their sons remain in jail awaiting trial. All but Mychal Bell are now out on bail. The last one was released in the third week of July.

The charges were initially second-degree attempted murder (a shoe being the potentially murderous weapon), but after national and international outcry, the charges were changed to second-degree assault in addition to conspiracy charges. Further, each individual is implicated to have played an equal share in the assault on Barker when it is obvious that Barker was only punched once – a clear lack of due process. Walters’ charged Bell with attempted murder as a pre-text for getting Bell tried as an adult instead of a minor. As Louis Scott, Bell’s new counsel from Monroe, La., said: Bell would have been sent back to the juvenile court system if the initial charges had been second-degree assault. In my opinion, it was a racist legal ploy by Walters to get these black teens into adult court with little to no evidence where they could get up to 22 years even if he had to LOWER the charges to assault instead of attempted murder.

June 28: Mychal Bell, 17, convicted of second-degree assault and conspiracy to commit such despite contradictory written statements by students right after the Dec. 4 incident. No witnesses called by defense against many white witnesses called by the DA in front of an all-white jury and white judge. Bell has new counsel: Louis Scott of Monroe and three co-counsel. The Louisiana ACLU is supporting the coordination of legal efforts, though not handling any legal counsel directly.

Friends of Justice: analysis of Mychal Bell’s trial and ineffective counsel. This is by far the most comprehensive legal analysis of Bell’s case so far. It provides context of how Jena’s racial tensions have played out in the courts. From reading this document, there is much to gain to support the work and understanding for the other upcoming trials.

July 31: Bell’s jail sentence to be announced. Appeals hopefully will be issued prior to or concurrently with such injustice. A march and rally were still held with estimates of 200 to 300 supporters present at the La Salle Parish Courthouse.

Sentencing of Mychal Bell has been changed to September 20. Read future posts for updates.

Important Writings:

Justice In Jena, by Jordan Flaherty, an editor of Left Turn Magazine

Injustice in Jena: The “White” Tree, by Bill Quigley

NPR: Searching for Justice in Jena 6 Case (streaming audio)

The Perpetrator becomes the Prosecutor (and other related entries)

Democracy Now! – The case of the Jena Six …

While Seated: Jena Six

Nooses, attacks and jail for black students in Jena Louisiana

‘Stealth racism’ stalks deep South

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 4:09 pm  Comments (23)  

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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a great synopsis

  2. I am so ashamed of the White population and the treatment of people of color. God does not look at color of the skin, but the heart of the person. Why do things like this, in our modern society still exist today. We are more educated than at any time in history, and we still act as barbarians. I am ashamed of any one who does not love their fellow man/woman.

  3. It is a sad day in America when our children cannot even attend school without being taunted, beaten, falsely accused, etc. I thought that this was 2007, not 1950. I guess it was my nievity that has allowed me to think that this country has evolved from its early days of racial hatred and inequalituy. I sincerely hope that the officials and others in positions of power will make the right decisions and free these young men. I hope that in my lifetime or maybe even my children’s lifetime that we will truly be able to experience racial equality and and end to all this unnecessary hatred, ignorance, and violence.

  4. It is so sad that in today’s society these kinds of injustices are considered right. It’s hard to see injustice if you are not on the receiving end of it. Until we as a group of inteligent people look at things without the rose-colored glasses, we will never go forward. Black does not equate to inferior and white to superior. This is a mind set we must overcome in order to see people as individuals, regardless of the skin they’re wrapped in. There will always be disagreements, but must it be strictly based on one’s race.

  5. An Open Letter To The Jena Six
    By Joseph Young
    Washington Informer
    Dear Mychal,
    I keep thinking about you. I also think about the other young men who have fallen prey to racial hatred. Its existence, more than a century after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, makes me fearful for your life, your safety. The freedom that it promised was tenuous.
    It was not entirely without strength. In the proclamation, issued three years into the Civil War, Lincoln declared, at the urging of Frederick Douglass, that the former slaves would be accepted into the Union Army and navy, making the liberated the liberator. By the war’s end, almost 200,000 black servicemen had fought for freedom and saved the Union.
    Your generation, like mine, is being denied this freedom our ancestors risked life and limb, so that we may live as free men and women. You can call them heroes, but they were not thinking of themselves when they displayed courage and self-sacrifice on the battlefields of America.
    Today, then, to guard against the impending doom of American civilization, is not only opposition to racism, but also the determination to secure the civil rights for which many Americans have paid a heavy toll. Of all the civil rights, the right to learn is the surest prevention from ignorance. If at any time, children are instructed with anti-black bias; and they are made to learn what is not true and what the dominate forces in their lives want them to think is true; there’re guilty of impeding the march toward American civilization.
    Astonishing as it is that those students would hang three nooses from the tree at Jena High School as a racial taunt, including calling the black students ‘niggers’; you would think that America would never again want to see a black person hang from a tree, or behind bars. The nooses show that we, Americans, have not come that far from the cruelties and barbarity of slavery as we think. (Between 1882 and 1968, an estimated 5,000 people, mostly blacks, met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs.) And this also is an unfortunate comment upon the belief that our schools are the great path to progress, the great equalizer. If our schools are the great path to progress, they must be the freest of our institutions, opposed bitterly to the attempt to indoctrinate our children with racial hatred.
    Well, Mychal, as you and the others wait behind bars because of a racially biased and an over zealous prosecutor, it is for us on the outside to continue the unfinished work of our fathers, to set you free. All of you were willing to fight racial hatred, and you know people of goodwill are beside you. If the Confederacy couldn’t stop us, the opposition we now face will fail. When history is written your detractors will get little note, but you will be remembered for standing up for what’s best of the American creed. You are part of a legacy in which our slave forebears fought to birth a new nation. You, Mychal, are a child of America’s destiny.
    It was Martin Luther King who said if a man doesn’t have something worth dying for he is not fit to live. Freedom is worth dying for. Justice is worth dying for. Equality is worth dying for. A child is worth dying for, because our job as parents is to protect children.
    Mychal, when you feel complete frustration and your narrow jail cell is closing in on your spirit and mind; remember the message of the old slave preacher to his flock whose resistance to oppression might have been completely in vain:
    “You are created in God’s image. You are not slaves, you are not ‘niggers’; you are God’s children.”
    Godspeed Mychal,
    Your brother in the struggle, Joseph

  6. It’s ashame that we live in a country that claims Democracy for all, that strives into pushing it on other countries ( Iraq ),but we practice such injustices on people of color right here in the USA. Where is the freedom of rights and democracy. I guess it only still applies to Whites or thoes with money.

  7. This is beyond madness i can’t believe you could even have a heart to bring back the 1950’s and expect everything to be ok but it’s not. This thing with whites and blacks none of this matters. When you get to that gate your not a color when it comes to god. Your all made equal and thay will rep what they soul. We all put our pants on the same way one leg at a time. So why fight eachother and be segregated when you can fight government to give us our rights and live our lives. Come on people open your eyes this is just another way to be destroyed and not make it to heaven. I tell you this devil is really working hard on people and he’s not taking no breaks no time soon. So get ready and let him know he’s not in charge no more it’s all about jesus. Jena 6 they are going to get through this cause prayer helps anything. So keep those heads held high and don’t let nothing get you down. And i have a dream that one day there would be no more hate and no more madness.

  8. Hi Mychal

    I was touched deeply to here of the trials and tribulations you are facing at such a young age. I recently heard your father on the radio one morning; I was not able to get the number then, but later this notice came up on my e-mail and I just had to comment.
    I can relate to your situation being born and raised in the central Florida area I have faced similar racial hate and injustice. And as a living testimony to you, this too will pass. Just hold on to the spritual seed that your parents have planted. Let it grow. God is love not hate. It is clear you are dealing with a group of ignorant(webster-Lack of knowlegg) indiviusals. A lot of people would like to beleive that this kind of racisim do not exist today, however it do on all kinds of different level, some are blatant like your situation and there are others on a more interlectual level(more common.) But the fact is that it do still exist.
    Remain humble,prayfull and keep the faith. Know this and remember fear and faith can not occupy the same space, it is up to you to decide which one you want for your life. There are great things promised to you in your future. I will be keeping you in my prays and assist were I can with your defense fund.
    God will keep a hedge of protection about you, just ask him.

    Much love

    @ God speed

  9. On Septemeber 20, 2007 theree will be a rally in Jena LA and Yes!!! We, SURVIVORS of Hurricane Katrina and a non reactive government will be there!

    As survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the injustices that we faced afterward in New Orleans, we will be there to stand in solidarity for our brothers who are facing a biased dual justice system. The bus will leave at 4:00 AM in the morning from Delgado Community College anyone who is interested in riding with us should contact me at 504-952-6895 or

  10. Not sure who runs this blog but this is an excellent post.

    You may also go here for the latest on the Jena 6.

  11. *~*I feel like they way these balck students are being treated is not fare.Because they were not the ones who started all of this. And they are the ones who are getting in all of the trouble. I think that the white students should had atleast got in trounle for what they did with the three nooses in the tree. Which didnt and then turned around and jump that black studnet when he enter a party. At the end only the black students got into trouble. Its not fair.

  12. Why don’t you point out the fact that the council for the young man was black? Why don’t you point out that over 350 black residents were sent requests to be on the jury but deceided not to? Why don’t you point out that the beating took place THREE months AFTER the noose’s were placed. The noose and the beatings are seperate incidents. While I agree the noose incidents was a hate crime and the students should have kicked out of school (as the principal wanted). The SIX on ONE beating of a white person by black people is a HATE crime. How dare anyone say different.

    Also, how can anyone bring KATRINA into this discussion. Shame on anyone for that.

  13. Stop bringing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton into these problems. TWO of the most RACIST people in the US. I would as everyone to read this:

    Great reading for all.

  14. I understand the situation now, thanks to this summary of events. Thank you.

  15. 6 on 1 happens all the time. It’s called getting jumped and it’s happened to plenty of people.

    Yes the 6 deserve to be punished but 22 years in prison for a fist fight is RIDICULOUS.

  16. Is there a specific website set up yet regarding the Jena 6? (Like for the West Memphis Three)

    Another example of a failed legal system. Of course the kid should be punished for sucker-punching someone and knocking them out but…. this is over the top.

  17. omfg mi gosh i cant believe what the world is coming 2!!!mi best friends are Hispanic white, Indian u name it i got a friend dat raise! what’s up wit dis racial shit???? i don’t know but it needs 2 stop. Because i don’t want mi kids 2 grow and live in this kinda world! The young black and white parents should’ve taught them htey CAN NOT JUDGE ANY ONE! ONLY GOD HAS THAT RIGHT! They should’ve also taught their children manners. I can believe dis shit is happing it just isn`t rite dat we (ppl of color) get treated differently. i love all races…no matter wat .dis just aint right and this is coming 4rm a black girl who loves everyone dont judge(isn’t mi place 2 judge someone)but Mychal keep ur head up no matter what. im trying 2 find out a place where i can write u.i live in nc but i wish i can b there comforting everyone that is going through this shit! Much love and respect! Deneisha G.

  18. […] language as to not copy it word for word – but I’m crediting it here. The Daily Press Article The Education of a Bookshop Clerk – great detailed timeline pre-July […]

  19. very well written impresed buy words and details

  20. Its obvioius that the nooses and the beating were two different events, but it is also obvious the the events led to one another. The nooses caused the protest, which caused the racial taunting at school and the assembly, which caused the first fight at the party, which caused Barker to taunt and tease Baiely whiched caused the fight. It may not have happened one day after another but it was caused by the incident of the nooses, before the nooses it was just a peacful Dr Martin Luther King protest.

  21. it is depressing to read about things like this happening in today’s society. you would think that people would learn to accept what is going on in the world around you. all people should be treated equally. when you get to heaven god dosen’t look at the color of your skin to see wether or not you get into heaven. sometimes i’m honestly ashamed to be white.

  22. I did counteract them that this was a risky party.


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