The small town of Jena, LA was flooded on Thursday with thousands of demonstrators in support of six black teens dubbed the ‘Jena 6.’ Last December, the six students were charged with attempted murder after the alleged assault of a white student. This came three months after a black freshman and his friends sat under a tree on their school grounds, in what was known as a predominantly white gathering area. The next day, three white students hung nooses from the tree.
The school’s superintendent, Roy Breithaupt, claimed the action wasn’t racially motivated. “Adolescents play pranks,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t think it was a threat against anybody.” District Attorney Reed Walters also insists the nooses were not a symbol of a hate crime, saying, “This case has been portrayed by the news media as being about race, and the fact that it takes place in a small southern town lends itself to that portrayal. But it is not and never has been about race. It is about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions,” reports the Associated Press.
Supporters have been outraged by opponents’ dismissals of racial hate crime allegations, and by the harsh sentencing given to the six black teens, citing that the white students, who only received three days of in-school suspension, had participated in a racially spurred hate crime. This is the most blatant example of disparity in the justice system that we’ve seen,” said the Revered Al Sharpton, according to Fox News. “You can’t have two standards of justice. We didn’t bring race into it. Those that hung the nooses brought the race into it.” As the controversy continues, next week marks the 50th anniversary of the integration of Central High School in Arkansas.