Posted Sept. 11, 2007 – Rapper-actor Mos Def is asking that African Americans and anybody concerned about justice join him on Sept. 20 in Jena, La., to protest the harsh prosecution of six Black teens who are facing serious jail time for their role in a fight with a White classmate.
The teens, known widely as the “Jena Six,” could spend 20 to 80 years behind bars for a fight that, according to the Jena High School Handbook, warrants a three-day suspension from school.
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On Sunday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters should be investigated by the state for bringing attempted murder charges against the teens, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spent the day meeting with family members of some of the defendants.
In recent weeks, the prosecutor reduced charges for Carwin Jones, Mychael Bell and Theo Shaw to second-degree battery and conspiracy, which could still draw a 20-year sentence. The two defendants still facing an attempted murder rap, Robert Bailey Jr. and Bryant Purvis, are also looking at a possible 80-year sentence. A juvenile defendant’s charges have not been disclosed to the public because of his age.
The date of the rally in tiny Jena, where 85 percent of the 3,000 residents are White, coincides with the sentencing day for Mychal Bell, the 17-year-old convicted of the lesser charges in the case.
The fight involving the Jena Six and an 18-year-old White student – who was treated for injuries and released the same day – occurred about a month after two White students hung three nooses on a shade tree at the school after a Black student broke an unwritten rule and sat under it.
Given Louisiana’s history of lynching Black men, African Americans in Jena saw the noose incident as a hate crime; the school board declined to expel the ones responsible, calling the noose act an “adolescent prank.”
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