Posted Sept. 24, 2007 – A North Carolina high school has its own “White tree.”
One day after tens of thousands of activists poured into teeny Jena, La., to protest the harsh prosecution of six Black teens, nooses – the same symbol of hate that sparked Thursday’s rally – were found swinging from a tree and other locations at a North Carolina high school.
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The fight between the so-called “Jena 6” and a White schoolmate was fueled in large part by nooses hung on a tree at Jena High. Two White students were angry that a Black student dared sit under the tree, which everybody knew was for Whites only. Several weeks of racial tension led to a fight that earned Justin Barker, a White student, a three-hour trip in the emergency room but could land the six Black teens in prison for many years to come.
Initially, five of the teens faced second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges (with potential sentences of 80 years apiece); in four of the cases, the district attorney reduced the charges to battery, which could still draw two-decade sentences for the defendants. Mychal Bell, one of the four with reduced charges, was convicted, but an appeals court judge tossed it out, saying Bell should have been tried as a juvenile, since he was only 16 when the offense occurred. Bell, who was denied bail on Friday, remains in prison as a prosecutor decides whether to reintroduce his case in juvenile court. An attempted murder and conspiracy rap still hangs over one defendant. Another defendant is a juvenile, and his charges have not been disclosed.
In the latest campus display of the national lynch symbol, four nooses were found Friday at Andrews High School in High Point, N.C. Police say that two nooses were hung on a tree in front of the school; one was in a bus loop near the senior parking lot, and a red noose, pictured above, was tied to the top of the school flagpole. High Point Police Capt. Margaret Erga said school officials found the nooses around 8:30 a.m. Friday and immediately notified authorities, who filed their report. Police were dispatched to the campus for the remainder of the day. In a statement on the Guilford County Schools Web site, school board officials said: "These discriminatory acts will not be tolerated in or against our schools. Those found to be responsible for this criminal act will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." School opened Monday morning as usual, Sonya Conway, executive director of district relations for Guilford County Schools, told The News-Record newspaper.