Posted on September 21, 2007

What Really Happened in Jena

Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, September 21, 2007

Everyone in America has now heard of Jena, Louisiana, and its alleged racial abominations. Its crimes are said to be so great that on Sept. 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 over the country took part, many comparing the demonstration to events in Selma or Birmingham half a century ago.

It takes some digging to find out what actually happened in Jena, but we are not witnessing a return to Jim Crow. Although blacks have treated LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters like a reincarnation of Bull Connor, the more closely his actions are examined the more reasonable they seem. These events have become a rallying cry for “civil rights” for only one reason: The national media have shamelessly warped them to fit the pattern of unregenerate Southern bigotry. Here is what actually happened.

The Nooses

On August 30, 2006, there was a back-to-school assembly for boys only at Jena High School. An assistant principal covered rules, dress codes, etc., and called for questions. One black asked a question that was clearly a joke: Could blacks sit with whites under a particular shade tree in the school’s courtyard. Everyone in the room laughed. The assistant principal answered that, of course, anyone could sit wherever he liked. There were a number of other questions — some funny, some serious — and the assembly broke up in good spirits.

National commentators have assumed whites had been keeping blacks away from the tree, but no one in Jena says this. There are places where whites often sit and places where blacks often sit, but there are no rigidly enforced boundaries. The question would not have gotten a big laugh if there had been tension about who could sit under the tree.

The next day, Aug. 31, the first students to arrive at school found nooses (some reports say three, some say two) hanging from the tree. Administrators immediately took them down, and the majority of students, who arrived after 7:15 a.m., never saw them. They later learned about the nooses from television and newspaper reports.

The school quickly found the three white students who had hung the nooses but concluded — and this is admittedly surprising — that they had no racial motivation for what the school called a “prank.” It should be underlined that the local police and the FBI also interviewed the boys and found no racial motive. The local US Attorney, Donald Washington, who is black, later looked into the nooses incident, and he, too, and found no grounds for action. The nooses were painted in the Jena High colors — black and gold — which does suggest a non-racial motive. Jena High School does not release details about student disciplinary matters, but word leaked out that the culprits were imitating something from a television program.

The high school principal nevertheless recommended expulsion, but the LaSalle Parish School Board overruled him and the three were suspended. For several weeks they attended a special school for expelled students, and were only later let back into Jena High. Meanwhile, blacks held meetings to complain about the nooses, in which they refused to see anything but racial hatred, and were angry that the white students were not expelled.

The continuing press about the nooses seems to have raised racial tension in a school that had seen little of it. On September 6, 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, and police were assigned to the school all day 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 the police found were a large number of cell phones, which are forbidden in school by state law.

It is important to note that from Sept. 9 through Nov. 30 — nearly three months — there were no racial incidents reported either at the high school or in the city or Jena. That night, however, someone set fire to the main high school building and gutted it. There are still no suspects, and nothing but speculation about motive.

The Fights

The school was closed for four days, during which there were some racial incidents in town. On Dec. 1, there was a private party at the Fair Barn, a big metal building used for social events. The crowd was mostly whites with a few blacks. At about 11:00 p.m. five black Jena High students tried to crash the party, but a woman told them they could not come in. The boys insisted, and a white man — not a student — stepped in front of the woman to prevent them. There was a fight, which continued outside. A number of other whites — not students — got involved, the police were called, and one of the whites was arrested and pleaded guilty to battery. At least two of the black students were later among the “Jena 6.”

The next day, Dec. 2, there was a fight at a convenience store called Gotta Go, between three black students and the same white man. There have been conflicting accounts of what happened, with the blacks charging that the white man was brandishing a gun. Accounts from witnesses led police to charge one of the black students with battery and theft. Jena High student Robert Bailey, 17, was involved in both the Fair Barn and Gotta Go fights, as well as the famous assault that took place a few days later.

December 4 was the first day of school after the fire. There was considerable chaos, with students meeting in makeshift classes. After lunch, black football star 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 LaSalle General Hospital, where he was in the emergency room for about 2-1/2 hours and racked up a bill of $5,467. A brain scan showed no anomalies, and he was released.

Much has been made later of the fact that that evening he attended the school’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.

At the trial of his main attacker, Mychal Bell, he said he had no idea why he was beaten, but this sounds disingenuous. Blacks claimed that earlier he had taunted one of them for having his “ass whipped” at the Fair Barn. A student who testified at the trial said 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 disciplined for the noose affair, nor did he have anything to do with the fights at the Fair Barn or at Gotta Go. He does not appear to be a choir boy, however. Just a few days before the end of the school year, 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.

The Whooping

Blacks were outraged when LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters charged six of the black attackers with attempted murder and decided to try Mr. Bell as an adult. He had good reasons 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, he had been found guilty under the juvenile system of three other crimes — two violent attacks and one property crime — before he even attacked Mr. Barker. Bail was set at $90,000, a figure his family could not meet. His father, who is now being portrayed as the caring parent, has been living in Texas for years, and resurfaced only after the boy was charged.

Just before the trial this summer, District Attorney Walters reduced charges to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. On June 28, 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 called for jury duty that day showed up (plenty of whites dodged jury duty, too). The jury pool was white, so the jury was white.

The guilty verdict made Mr. Bell into a hero. He and the five other defendants were baptized “The Jena 6,” and the trial was soon being touted around the world as a classic case of bigoted 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 was in town on Sept. 10, with a not-so-veiled threat. He demanded that the sentence for Mr. Bell be thrown out and that the charges for the remaining attackers be reduced to misdemeanors. If not, he said, there would be a “major demonstration” spurred by the “national and international outrage” with as many as 40,000 people likely to descend on poor little Jena. “The DA and the judge can go a long way to relieve this tension,” he said.

Maybe 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 maximum sentence would have been 22-1/2 years; in juvenile court, Mr. Bell will face no more than 15 years. District Attorney Walters did not give in. He intends to try everyone on felony charges.

On Sept. 20, Jena got its demonstration, with the usual bombast about racism and unequal justice for blacks. Perhaps as many as 10,000 people — almost all back — were bused in from as far away as Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago and Philadelphia. Blacks all across the country have been whooping up the “Jena 6” as the great civil rights cause of our era.

The whooping has been based on distortions that the media have done everything to encourage. The story now going around the world is that there were parts of Jena High School where blacks were not allowed. Whites strung up nooses when blacks asked to be let into those places. The whites got off scot-free. There followed a series of fights between blacks and whites — the off-campus fights in which no white students were involved get a lot of attention here — in which no white student even got arrested. Racism reached an ugly paroxysm when yet another “school-yard fight” resulted in attempted murder charges against blacks while whites again got off scot-free. The charge of attempted murder is obviously trumped up because the white “victim” went to a school function that same evening. Here is the storied Southern racism of old, come back from what all liberals will assure us was never the dead. Even British pop star David Bowie has given $10,000 to the NAACP’s “Jena 6 Legal Defense Fund” to help fight injustice.

The media are almost entirely to blame for this. 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 ask for freedom for thugs who knocked a boy down and stomped him as he lay unconscious. This is what “civil rights” now means for the NAACP and the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

We urge readers to contact District Attorney Reed Walters and encourage him to stick to his guns.

J. Reed Walters

P.O. Box 1940

Jena, LA 71342-1940

Phone: (318) 992-8282

Fax: (318) 992-4731