Local News

Triangle Supporters of 'Jena 6' Head to Louisiana

Posted September 19, 2007 5:26 a.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2007 7:10 a.m. EDT

— Hundreds of people from the Triangle will take part in a rally in Louisiana to support the "Jena Six" on Thursday.

Protesters are upset over charges against black teenagers who police said were involved in the beating of a white student last December. The teens were initially charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit attempted murder. The charges were later reduced to aggravated battery.

The first teen to go on trial, Mychal Bell, was convicted by an all-white jury. A judge later ruled he should not have been tried as an adult, but Bell remains in jail while the prosecutor appeals the ruling.

Attorney and nationally syndicated radio host Warren Ballentine said he will be at the Louisiana rally. The racial turmoil in Jena began to flow across the Triangle airwaves after an interview on his radio show.

"It all started by the parents coming on a radio show, my show actually," said Ballentine.

Racial unrest is not new for the tiny town of Jena. A year ago, a black student allegedly asked the vice principal of Jena High School if he could sit under what was referred to as the "white" tree, in the school yard, where only white students were allowed to sit. The vice principal agreed. The next day, three nooses hung from the tree limb. Three white students allegedly responsible were suspended, but were not charged with a hate crime. The school superintendent called it just a prank

"This really isn't about black and white. It's about these kids going through something like this. All American people should be upset about this, because it could be your child. It could be my child," said Ballentine.

After the radio interview, Ballentine's listeners began to speak out about what was happening in Jena. A lot of those people will be riding buses to Jena for the rally.

"I expect to see 60,000-plus [in Jena, Louisiana] of not just African Americans, but white, Hispanics, Asians, Americans who are literally standing up saying our children will not be treated this way," said Ballentine.

Four charter buses will pull out of Durham Wednesday morning before arriving in Louisiana Thursday. Participants from at least 30 different cities are expected, including members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Some residents in Jena are boarding up their homes and businesses, even schools are closed in anticipation of Thursday's rally. Thursday was chosen because it was the original sentencing date for Bell.

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