Justice for the Jena Six!
Fired Up, Won’t Take It No More!
By Freedom Road Socialist Organization
Outraged people are raising their voices, marching in the streets and rallying on campuses across the country to support the Jena Six. Jena is a small town, four hours northwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. The Jena Six are African-American high school students who refuse to be second-class citizens. The Jena Six are standing up for their rights and fighting back against racism in their community. These young men refuse to be insulted, pushed around and harassed. They simply want equality with the whites in their school and community. The Jena Six are now symbolic of the righteousness of rebellion against racist national oppression.
A statement from Free the Jena 6 explains: “Last fall, when two Black high school students sat under the ‘white’ tree on their campus, white students responded by hanging nooses from the tree. When Black students protested the light punishment for the students who hung the nooses, District Attorney Reed Walters came to the school and told the students he could ‘take their lives away with a stroke of his pen.’”
Racial tension continued to mount in Jena, and the District Attorney did nothing in response to several egregious cases of violence and threats against black students. But when a white student - who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses - taunted a black student, and allegedly called several black students n_____ , was beaten up by Black students, six Black students were charged with second-degree attempted murder. Last month, the first young man to be tried, Mychal Bell, was convicted. He faces up to 22 years in prison for a school fight.
A Victory Is Won, the Fight Is Still On!
Thanks to the organizers - the NAACP and the families of the Jena Six - a broad and powerful protest movement of Black people and their allies arose across the U.S. This brought forward a tremendous victory! The growing movement forced the Louisiana criminal justice system to retreat. An appellate judge of the Third Circuit Court threw out the conviction (which was handed down by an all-white jury) against Mychal Bell, saying he should not have been tried as an adult.
The fight is still on, however, because District Attorney Reed Walters promises to pursue cases against the Six. On Sept. 20, organizers promise to have thousands from across the South marching through Jena. The racist railroading of these youth must be stopped.
A Fight for Freedom
The struggle of the Jena Six comes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the criminal neglect of the Bush administration, which caused the deaths of thousands of working-class people, mostly African-Americans. For Black people, these trials in Louisiana are salt in a wound. The fight of the Jena Six is the fight of the Black nation for freedom. It exposes the everyday racism of the American education system. It shines the light on the racist criminalization of young Black men. It hammers away at the shackles of national oppression faced by all Black people no matter what their class or position. The struggle of these six Black sons and brothers is being taken to a higher and higher level the longer the trials continue.
While the Bush administration loses its criminal war against the people of Iraq, the battle against racist national oppression at home must advance. The Iraqi people are committed to struggle until they regain their independence. So too the Black struggle for freedom takes a long view and links up with other struggles as it seeks to end Wall Street’s domination and control. To this end, the Black liberation movement has natural allies in the Chicano national movement of the Southwest, in the movements of other oppressed nationalities - Mexican, Puerto Rican, Arab-American, Asian American, Native-American, etc., and in the movement of the multi-national working class.
The struggle of the Jena Six shows there is growing potential to shake this system and force change. The anti-war movement is large and likely to act more militantly as the U.S. occupation continues. The May 1 mega-marches of the immigrants rights movement startled the whole world and turned back sharp attacks. As the struggle for full equality continues to build, the sight of millions marching through cities and towns has other oppressed and exploited people thinking about acting up. It appears an economic downturn is arriving. It will sharpen these struggles. The small class of rich U.S. billionaires and millionaires who control the politicians and the government will become more repressive. All workers have an interest in ending their own exploitation, which means supporting equality and liberation. The capitalist system, the system of oppression we live under, deserves to be overthrown.
Justice For the Jena Six!
Statement by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization: www.frso.org
For news and views from the people’s struggle: www.fightbacknews.org