Posted Jan. 14, 2008 – The small Louisiana town of Jena cannot force a White supremacist group to put up a $10,000 bond to hold a march and rally on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal judge has ruled.
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"After two status conferences with all parties and a federal judge, we acknowledge that our ordinance does not pass First Amendment scrutiny," Mayor Murphy R. McMillin said in a news release Friday. "As we have said from the beginning, we are going to comply with the law. Although we disagree with the position of the Nationalist Movement, and with the beliefs that the group promotes, we respect the rights of its constituents to express those beliefs."
The Nationalist Movement, based in Learned, Miss. , announced the gathering to counter the Sept. 20, 2007 rally that was held in support of the “Jena Six,” the group of Black teens charged with beating a White schoolmate. Tens of thousands poured into the central Louisiana community of about 3,000 residents, demanding that the prosecutor reduce attempted murder charges against the youths.
In recent months, the prosecutor has changed the charges to second-degree assault. One of the defendants, Mychal Bell, has been tried and convicted. The conviction was thrown out by an appeals court which ruled that he should never have been tried as an adult, because he was only 17 at the time of the crime. However, he is now serving eight months on a separate, earlier juvenile offense.
Following the Jena Six rally, the Nationalists wanted to hold their “pro-majority” march, but town officials said that a local ordinance requires groups to post a bond and meet other restrictions. According to Jena Mayor Murphy R. McMillin, the Sept. 20 protestors not only met the requirements, but succeeded them.
"We now know the ordinance is of questionable constitutionality, particularly in view of observations made by the federal judge in two status conferences," McMillin said. "Knowing now that the ordinance is faulty, we are in the process of correcting it."