Thousands March on Jena
Somewhere between 15,000 and 50,000 demonstrators marched Thursday on the small Louisiana town of Jena, where racial tension and prejudicial justice have captured national attention.
The event seemed to bridge the generation gap between those who lived through and those who have only read about the civil rights movement.
The cause of Thursday’s demonstrations dates to August 2006, when a black Jena High School student asked the principal whether blacks could sit under a shade tree that was a frequent gathering place for whites. He was told yes. But nooses appeared in the tree the next day. Three white students were suspended but not criminally prosecuted. LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said this week he could find no state law covering the act.
[NAACP national youth director Stephanie] Brown said the Jena case resonates with the college-aged crowd because they aren’t much older than the six youths charged. Many of the student protesters had been sharing information about the case through Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking Web sites.
[The Rev. Jesse] Jackson, who led a throng of people three blocks long to the courthouse with an American flag resting on his shoulder, likened the demonstration to the marches on Selma and the Montgomery bus boycott. But even he was not entirely sure why Jena became the focal point.