White Supremacists in Jena for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Tomorrow, January 21, a group of white supremacists/nationalists plan to rally in Jena, Louisiana on MLK Day as a counter demonstration to the national support for six black high schoolers unfairly tried and overcharged in an attack on a white boy at the local high school. The general narrative of the incidents in the town, if not the facts, is widely known after September 20 when more than 20,000 people from across the nation flooded into the small oil and lumber town (see my feature article and timeline). It was one of the largest demonstrations in this country on racial injustice in over a decade (though, no doubt that the Mayday 2006 rallies across the nation were larger).

At first the town officials in Jena blocked the white supremacists from acquiring a permit. After filing a lawsuit, a judge rightly returned the group’s first amendment rights to “peaceably assemble.” I’m not familiar with how the group has advertised this event, so it remains unclear whether they plan to be peaceful. I’ve of course heard news that groups will be traveling to Jena to counter this counter demonstration.

A couple family members of the original six boys, along with other black and white community members, have joined a national coalition to confront the racist slogans of the counter protesters in Jena tomorrow. From my limited knowledge, there is no intention of aggressive confrontation from the groups in the national coalition, but militant anti-racist groups in the south may do so regardless of the will of the larger coalition.

The controversy here in New Orleans among individuals involved over this past summer, when much of the grassroots work started to put Jena on the map, is about the consent of the Jena families. The people pushing the event in New Orleans are people who moved to New Orleans in the last four months and, although that’s not necessarily a mark against them, it’s the evasive way some questions of accountability have been answered. Such as: what is the strategy for the counter-counter demonstration? Have you made preparations in case there is violence (medics, etc)?

I’m not in a position of experience in organizing to decisively favor to either: 1) confront racists anywhere or 2) respect the wishes of many family members of the Jena 6 who do not want there to be scene, potentially riotous, when they favor ignoring the white supremacists instead of giving them a platform for their cause.

I do have a friend going (though only to meet up and travel back with folks coming from another city) and hope that all ends without incident.
Peace be on Jena tomorrow.

Published in: on January 20, 2008 at 7:50 pm  Comments (2)