NAACP LENDS ITS SUPPORT TO THE PEOPLE OF JENA, ENLISTS ALL IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AN UNJUST SYSTEMDecember 31, 1969
July 20, 2007
The NAACP and its partners are providing considerable resources in defense of six Louisiana teens, who in the last several months, have faced overly aggressive prosecution and extended incarceration for fighting with whites in their community. The group has come to be known as the Jena 6--in reference to the small town where a series of racial incidents escalated leading to the arrest of the young men and all being charged with serious criminal conduct offenses that could lead to many years of imprisonment.
The six charged were: Robert Bailey Jr., 17, whose bail was set at $138,000; Theo Shaw, 17, whose bail totaled $130,000; Carwin Jones, 18, whose bail was $100,000; Bryant Purvis, 17, whose bail was $70,000; Mychal Bell, a 16 year-old high school sophomore was charged as an adult whose bail was set at $90,000; and a still unidentified minor.
Sentencing for Bell will occur July 31 where he faces the possibility of up to 22 years in prison. In his trial that lasted less than two days late last month, an all white jury found Bell guilty of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery for his role in the beating of a white male who participated in a racial incident at the local high school last December. Bell's public defender called no witnesses and did not question the makeup of the jury pool.
"This is an American outrage that demonstrates the continuing shame of racial division in our country," said NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Julian Bond. "We urge everyone interested in fairness and equality to join us in making it one of the last."
A team of concerned lawyers is volunteering their legal experience and research expertise to assist Bell in his appeal and stand ready to assist the other defendants. Professor Charles Ogletree, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, is also collaborating with the NAACP in the effort to secure justice for the young men.
At the NAACP's 98th annual convention recently held in Detroit, an emergency resolution was passed in support of the Jena 6 and the LaSalle Parish Branch of the NAACP to fight against racial discrimination during the trial and in the community overall. "This case reflects a national trend involving disparate treatment of African Americans within the United States criminal justice system," the resolution reads.
In the resolution, the NAACP demands that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate and monitor the trial of the teenagers for any violations, adding that the U.S. Department of Education should also investigate allegations of discrimination at Jena High School.
The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP is also monitoring the Jena 6 cases, has met with the families of the accused and attended the opening day of Bell's trial. The Louisiana NAACP has also obtained Donald W. Washington, U.S. Attorney for the western district of Louisiana, to commit to a July 28 town hall meeting in Jena to discuss possible civil rights violations there.
"These cases demand national attention and support," said NAACP Interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo. "The NAACP will work to achieve racial healing and unbiased justice for the Jena 6."
Individuals interested in the effort can sign a petition to express their concern and donate to the NAACP to support its ongoing efforts to secure racial equality and justice by accessing www.naacp.org.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.