Thousands Protest Supporting Jena Six

By: Linsey Davis, ABC News
By: Linsey Davis, ABC News

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Jena, La. on Sept. 20 in support of six black teens charged in the beating of a white classmate.

The Reverend Al Sharpton called it a "March for Justice."

A march of this magnitude could be expected in the nation's capitol, but not here--not in this small town in Louisiana.

Prior to a few months ago, most had never even heard of Jena. It's what happened here about a year ago that put this town of 3,000 people on the map .

"We're not coming to condone any kind of fighting. We're saying though that there must always be a balance and the criminal justice system can't overcharge some and not charge others," Rev. Al Sharpton explained.

It all started with this tree at the high school, a place where white students gathered between classes. The day after black students sat there, three nooses were hung from its limbs.

Three white students were later suspended, but not expelled which fueled a fire--literally.

An arsonist burned down part of the school, racial slurs and physical altercations ensued.

In December, a white student, Justin Barker, was severely beaten, taken to the hospital and released several hours later.

Six black students, now known nationally as the Jena Six, were arrested--originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy.

That's what led to the grass roots movement that has the streets of Jena flooded with protesters.

As for the infamous tree where the controversy started, it has been cut down.

The rally had been planned to coincide with the sentencing of Mychal Bell's, one of the six black students, but organizers decided to press ahead even after the conviction was thrown out.


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