Posted Nov. 19, 2007 -- While President Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, did a poor job of bringing charges against hate criminals, activists and organizers of Friday’s march for justice in Washington, D.C., say that President Bush’s administration has left even more African Americans feeling there is little protection against racist acts of violence.
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"There're Jenas everywhere," the Rev. Al Sharpton said Friday, referring to the case in Jena , La. , which has come to epitomize the unfairness of the American justice system. "Which is why you saw thousands of us come to Jena and why you see thousands of us come now. No one has the ability to get people to come on a cold day like this if people weren't feeling that they have been disenfranchised and been treated unfairly. Clearly, Jena resonates because people are familiar with the Jenas in their areas."
On Friday thousands of protestors braved cold temperatures to draw attention to the Justice Department’s apparent unwillingness to take an aggressive posture against threats, intimidation and outright racial violence. "This is a real outcry, a real outrage from people around this country," Sharpton said.
But Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who was sworn in in recent days to replace Alberto Gonzales – who many have characterized as a Bush lackey who was cold to civil rights concerns – said in a statement that the department, under his leadership, will stand up for justice. "Although there are limitations and challenges in bringing successful hate crimes prosecutions, the department takes each case seriously," Mukasey said. "As long as hatred and racism exist, the Justice Department will continue its hard and effective work on behalf of all victims of hate crimes.”
As demonstrators marched from Freedom Plaza to the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, which they circled seven times – reminiscent of the Bible’s Joshua, who marched around the walls of Jericho seven times before overtaking the city in battle – they reflected on a year’s worth of unimpeded racial strife. There was the police shooting of Sean Bell, a young Black man killed in a blizzard of bullets on his wedding day; the prosecution of Genarlow Wilson, the Black teen who was slapped with a lengthy prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with another teen; Megan Williams, the young Black woman who was kidnapped, raped, tortured and forced to eat feces and urine by six Whites who yelled racial slurs at her throughout the ordeal; and the recent flurry of nooses that have been consistently cropping up at high schools and college campuses, workplaces and even military bases.
But the incident that compelled civil rights activists and others to begin a series of massive demonstrations was the so-called “Jena Six” case. Many critics were outraged by the federal government’s failure to prosecute Whites who hung a noose on the local high school campus, even though the incident reportedly triggered a racial fight that resulted in charges of attempted murder for six Black teens. The charges were eventually reduced to battery, for which they will now be tried.
Rep. Artur Davis (D- Alabama) is one of those who rails against the Justice Department’s seeming slothfulness in prosecuting hate crimes, noting that it charged only 22 people last year with hate crimes, compared with 76 people 10 years ago.
“The numbers weren't great in the Reno years. They are outright abysmal now," Davis said. "We either need stronger laws or we need a more aggressive commitment from the Department of Justice."
Are these types of protests necessary to get the world’s attention about racism in America ? Or are they complete wastes of time? Click "Discuss Now" to post your comment.