Revolution#110, November 25, 2007

The Jena 6 and the “Freedoms We Enjoy”

On Monday November 12, the Alexandria, LA Town Talk newspaper published a guest editorial “Continue the struggle to free the Jena Six.” The editorial was signed by “Alice Woodward and Hank Brown, correspondents for Revolution newspaper reporting from Jena,” and was the product of consultation with many people in Jena involved in the struggle to Free the Jena 6.

The editorial said, “The people must continue to build the struggle and fight on to free the Jena Six! This is not a time to chill. The events that sparked a movement—the protests and resistance of the black people in Jena against the hanging of the nooses, and the authorities coming down on these six youth to enforce the racist status quo—are still playing out today. Jena is a racist and segregated place, in a racist and segregated society where black people are systematically discriminated against. There can be no ‘reconciliation’ with this.”

And, the editorial called for “[A] day of protest, and soon. A day for people across the country and in Jena, to deliver the demands that all the charges be dropped, and that it is completely unacceptable that Mychal Bell or any of the Jena 6 be held in jail or put on trial for one day more. Details of this call to action will be announced. We urge supporters of the Jena Six to contact us to contribute their ideas on this next step and get involved.”

To arrogant white supremacists in the region, publishing this kind of truth in a mainstream Louisiana newspaper was intolerable. One reader wrote, “demanding the dismissal of all charges against the Jena 6 fits the mode and agenda of the communists in their opposition to the freedoms we enjoy under a freely elected government.” Among those, obviously, the freedom to put away the Jena Six for decades because Black students stood up to lynch ropes hanging from the “whites-only tree” in their school, and the freedom to censor and suppress anyone who wants to expose and oppose that.

In another expression of those great “freedoms we enjoy under a freely elected government,” the only copy shop in Jena refused to print this statement. The owner of the store told Hank Brown, “I don’t know you, but I do know Reed Walters and Craig Franklin, and they’re not liars, and I’m just not gonna print it.” A letter to the editor of Town Talk exposed this incident, and set off another round of comments like “The last time I looked, I believe this is still America. They have the right to refuse service to anyone, regardless of color or race.” And white supremacists posted threats like “If you commie ba$t@rd$ and the rest of you Jena haters don’t like it here, pack up and get the he!! out of town,” along with requests for Alice’s address.

Meanwhile, on the streets, people are saying things like “There’s not a word in there that’s untrue.” Alice Woodward reports that, “Overwhelmingly Black people agree that the struggle must continue, that we gotta do something to continue.  That we can’t let the authorities think we just came and had a little march and now its over and they can go ahead.  People see a need for the momentum to continue from the 20th.  People are discussing how to make the next call a massive expression  of our demands, and people felt this had to be on a national level.  In order for this next step to come forward the grassroots movement must continue to grow and broaden everywhere becoming more determined to Free the Jena 6.”

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