The ‘Jena 6’ Fraud
‘Civil rights’ for the 21st century.
Everyone in America has now heard of Jena, Louisiana. Its racism is said to be so shocking that on September 20 Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had to lead a massive “civil rights” march through the sleepy town of 3,000 to drag it into the modern era. Young blacks from all around the country took part, many comparing the demonstration to events in Selma or Birmingham half a century ago.
In fact, the “racism” blacks are denouncing is imaginary. The national media have been almost criminally negligent in describing a few harmless events in Jena as if Jim Crow had suddenly risen from the dead. They have painted an entirely ordinary town in false colors, and show no signs of apologizing or even publishing corrections.
Here is the story as the big media saw it: At Jena High School there was a shade tree under which only whites were allowed to sit. When a black student asked if blacks could sit there too, whites hung nooses on the tree to scare them away. The whites were caught, but got only a slap on the wrist. Blacks were understandably annoyed, and rising tensions led to a black/white school-yard fight. Unlike the lenient treatment the white noose-hangers got, six blacks in the fight were charged with attempted murder. This glaring case of double-standard justice has rallied support for the “Jena 6” from around the world, and prompted demands that the criminal charges be dropped immediately.
What actually happened? Craig Franklin is a reporter with the Jena Times who has covered events from the beginning. He confirms that there was no “whites-only” tree. The tree in question was planted in 1986, and only recently grew tall enough to give shade. The school put picnic tables under it, and anyone who wanted, sat at them.
The question about whether blacks could sit under the tree came during a back-to-school assembly for boys on Aug. 30, 2006, to go over the dress code and other routine matters. When a black student asked about the tree, he laughed, and the whole room laughed. Everyone knew that although students sometimes self-segregate, no place on campus was off-limits to anyone. Mr. Franklin of the Jena Times has learned that the boys asked a number of joke questions, partly to keep the assembly going as long as possible, so they would not have to go back to regular classes.
It is true that early the next morning two nooses made of back nylon rope were found hanging from the tree. The school took them down immediately, and hardly any of the students saw them. School authorities quickly found the three white students who hung them. Mr. Franklin says they were not even proper nooses, but crudely tied loops. Why did the boys put them there? They had recently seen the “Lonesome Dove” television series, in which Texas Rangers string up several rustlers. None of the rustlers was black. The nooses on the tree were an innocent prank, directed at white friends.
Mr. Franklin learned in September 2007 from their parents that the boys did not even know nooses had racial significance. Each of the three had been around livestock all their lives, and to them nooses meant cowboys and rustlers. “They didn’t have a clue what nooses mean to blacks,” he says, and were “totally flabbergasted” to learn that they can be seen as symbols of lynching.
Adults understood, however, and realized blacks would be upset. As the school superintendent Roy Breithaupt later explained: “Even though we’d determined their true motivation had nothing to do with racial hate, we had to acknowledge that to the black community it would be perceived in that manner. Therefore, severe action was taken regarding the students and the hanging of the nooses.”
“Severe” is right. The boys were made to attend an off-campus disciplinary school for nine days, and then served two weeks of in-school suspension and several Saturday detentions. They were put through a school discipline court, required to pass psychological evaluation to determine they were not threats to anyone, and referred for monitoring to a family crisis intervention program. The police, the FBI, and federal prosecutors all grilled them. Everyone concluded that the nooses were a prank that had nothing to do with blacks or the question asked in the assembly about sitting under the tree. Difficult as it may be for some to believe, their appearance on the tree the day after the question was a coincidence.
It does appear that the nooses raised racial tensions at the school, but only because the local press reported them as symbols of lynching. On September 6, 2006, a few days after the nooses went up, there was a nasty argument between a black girl and a white girl, and a white boy went to the emergency room for stitches after he was hit in the head from behind. These were exceptional events for Jena High School, where race relations are normally good, and police were assigned to the school on September 7. The next day, there was a report that someone had brought a gun to school. Students were kept in classes for three hours while police searched students and school grounds. All they found were a large number of cell phones, which are forbidden in school by state law.
Given these signs of tension, why didn’t the school set the record straight about the nooses? The facts came to light during an investigation that could have led to expulsion, and state law requires that such proceedings be secret. “We were bound by law to keep the results of the investigation confidential,” explained Superintendent Breithaupt many months later. “That’s the reason we simply could not talk about it publicly.” Also, Jena had not yet become a world-wide news story, so there seemed to be no need to breach confidentiality.
In light of what happened later, it is important to note that from September 9 through the end of November — nearly three months — the nooses faded from memory and there were no racial incidents reported either at the high school or in the city or Jena. In the first days of December, however, there were two off-campus fistfights between several black Jena High School students and white townspeople. No one was seriously injured, and a federal investigation later found that the police response was entirely appropriate.
|Al Sharpton and Mychal Bell.|
The crucial event took place back at the high school on December 4, 2006 — long after the nooses went up. A black football star named Mychal Bell walked up to a white student named Justin Barker and punched him to the ground from behind. Some eight to ten boys — all black — then started kicking him. Witness statements taken later used phrases like “stomped him badly,” “stepped on his face,” “knocked out cold on the ground,” and “slammed his head on the concrete beam.” According to court documents, Mr. Barker was probably unconscious before he hit the ground, where his attackers stomped his “lifeless” body. The Jena Times calls it “one of the most violent attacks in Jena High School’s history.”
When Assistant Principal Gawan Burgess got to the scene, he thought the boy was dead. He was bleeding from ears and nose and showed no sign of life. An ambulance took Mr. Barker to the hospital, where he was in the emergency room for about 2½ hours and ran up a bill of $5,467. A brain scan showed no anomalies, and he was released.
As LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters has explained many times, this was not a “school-yard fight.” It was a cold-blooded assault, and he charged six of the attackers with attempted murder. Their supporters claim this was a “racist” overreaction to a “playground fight,” especially in light of the mild treatment — generally reported as “three days of in-school suspension” — said to have been given the “racist” whites who hung the nooses. Supporters of the black attackers have tried to discredit the charge of attempted murder by pointing out that Mr. Barker attended a school function the evening after the beating. It was Jena high’s annual class ring ceremony where, as a junior, he was to get a ring. “I waited 11 years to go to it,” he has since explained. “I wasn’t going to let that get in my way.” Mr. Barker had a swollen face and was in considerable pain. He left the ceremony early, as soon as he got his ring. He says he was blind in one eye for three weeks, and was still suffering from headaches six months after the beating.
Why did the black students beat Mr. Barker? At the trial of his main attacker, Mychal Bell, he said he had no idea. Blacks said Mr. Barker had taunted one of them with having his “ass whipped” at one of the off-campus fights a few days before. A student testified at the trial that just before Mr. Bell attacked Mr. Barker she heard a black say, “There’s that white mother f***er that was running his mouth.”
It should be underlined that Mr. Barker was not one of the three whites who hung the nooses, and that at the time of his attack no one said it had anything to do with them. It was only later that “Jena 6” supporters tried to excuse the beating by tying it to the four-months-old nooses episode.
The victim, Mr. Barker, does not appear to be a choirboy. Just a few days before the end of the academic year — long after the attack — he was expelled from school after a hunting rifle was found in his car on school grounds. Students are strictly forbidden to bring weapons to school.
Blacks were outraged when District Attorney Walters decided to try the first defendant, Mychal Bell, as an adult, but he had reason to. Mr. Bell, who was 16 at the time of the attack, had been on probation since he committed battery on Christmas Day, 2005. Since then, in a period of less than a year, he was found guilty under the juvenile system of three other crimes — two violent assaults and one property crime — and this was even before he attacked Mr. Barker. Bail was set at $90,000, a figure his family could not meet. His father, who is now being portrayed as a deeply caring parent, had been living in Texas for years, and resurfaced only after the boy was charged.
Just before the trial last summer, District Attorney Walters reduced charges to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. On June 28, 2007, after deliberating for less than three hours, a jury of five women and one man found Mr. Bell guilty. He was to be sentenced on Sept. 20. Much has been made of the fact that all the jurors were white, but none of the blacks summoned for jury duty that day showed up (plenty of whites dodged jury duty, too). The jury pool was all white, so the jury was all white.
The guilty verdict made Mr. Bell a hero to blacks. He and the other five defendants were soon being touted around the world as classic victims of bigoted, Southern white justice.
On August 5, Al Sharpton came to town with his usual message: “You cannot have some boys assault and charged with nothing, some boys hanging nooses and finish the school year, and other boys charged with attempted murder and conspiracy. That’s two levels of justice, and two levels of justice is an injustice.”
Jesse Jackson showed up on Sept. 10, demanding that the conviction for Mr. Bell be thrown out, and that the charges for the remaining attackers be reduced to misdemeanors. If not, he threatened, there would be a “major demonstration” spurred by the “national and international outrage,” with as many as 40,000 people likely to descend on Jena. “The DA and the judge can go a long way to relieve this tension,” he warned.
Perhaps the judge was listening. On Sept. 14, 28th Judicial District Court Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr. vacated Mr. Bell’s adult conviction, and ordered him retried in juvenile court. As an adult, the longest sentence could have been 22-1/2 years; in juvenile court, Mr. Bell will face a maximum of 15 years. District Attorney Walters did not give in. He intends to try all the defendants on felony charges.
On Sept. 20, Jena got its demonstration, with the usual bombast about racism and unequal justice. Perhaps as many as 15,000 people — almost all black — were bused in from as far away as Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Blacks all across the country are lauding the “Jena 6” as the great civil rights victims of our era.
The New York Times tells us Jena is “a high profile arena in the debate on racial bias in the judicial system.” The London Observer wrote that Jena shows “how lightly sleep the demons of racial prejudice in America’s deep south.” The word went out around the world, and British pop star David Bowie gave $10,000 to the NAACP’s “Jena 6 Legal Defense Fund.”
|Robert Bailey Jr. thanks his supporters.|
Four hundred thousand dollars reportedly rolled in before lawyers took the case pro bono. Some of the money then ended up on the Internet, where one of the “Jena 6,” Robert Bailey, posted photos of himself and another defendant draped in $100 bills. The word in Jena — and no one is denying it — is that, thanks to the “defense fund,” Robert Bailey’s mother is now driving a BMW, and Mychal Bell’s mother has moved up to a Jaguar.
Politicians are burnishing their anti-racist credentials. Senator Hillary Clinton told the NAACP: “This case reminds us that the scales of justice are seriously out of balance when it comes to charging, sentencing, and punishing African Americans.” Senator Chris Dodd said that Jena proves we still have “de facto segregation,” and urged Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to overturn any convictions that may result. In September, Congressman John Conyers said he would hold congressional hearings on “the miscarriages of justice that have occurred in Jena, Louisiana,” and the Congressional Black Caucus calls events in Jena “an unbelievable example” of “separate and unequal justice.”
The media are almost entirely to blame for this hideous cavorting. All too ready to assume the worst of whites, all too happy to encourage blacks to scream “racism,” they have, in effect, driven them to demand freedom for thugs who knocked a boy down and stomped him as he lay unconscious. The charges of “racism” that are supposed to justify the attack have now been shown to be just as groundless as the lies with which Tawana Brawley helped Al Sharpton find his true calling.
What are the chances the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and the rest of the world media will correct their stories? Water is more likely to flow uphill. The media have sunk their teeth into what they thought was a juicy story about small-town, Southern racism and there is no pulling back. The “Jena 6” have joined the “Little Rock 9” and the “Scottsboro Boys” as iconic victims of Southern white racism. The whole thing is a contemptible fraud.