Rosie Simmons, right, grandmother of Mychal Bell, amid supporters at Trout Creek Baptist Church.
SYMBOL OF TERROR
To fully appreciate the chain of
events that set the Jena 6 in motion, you have to understand the
visceral reaction and psychological
impact nooses have in the black
community. A noose has been a
symbol of terror and intimidation used by the Ku Klux Klan and
other hate groups that tortured
and killed blacks for centuries in
the United States, but most particularly in the deep South, where
the Jena case erupted. In the
Reconstruction-era South, lynching
of black men was almost commonplace, and by some estimates, more
than 4,700 blacks were lynched
between 1882 and 1968.
It’s little wonder that once the
nooses were discovered hanging from a tree in the Jena High
School courtyard (in the high
school’s colors of black and gold,
no less), the black populace of
the small town was incensed.
Justin Barker’s injuries prompted the arrests.
Jena 6 Timeline
Aug. 31, 2006
A group of black high-school
students at Jena High School ask permission to
sit under a tree traditionally “reserved” for
white students. The students are granted
permission to sit there, but the following day,
three nooses in school colors are found hanging
from the tree.
Sept. 6, 2006
A group of black students stage a protest under the tree.
That protest, coupled with sporadic outbreaks of violence between blacks
and whites in the town, prompts a school visit from Jena District Attorney
Reed Walters. Walters addresses the black students in an auditorium, saying
that additional “unrest” would not be tolerated and would be treated as a
criminal matter. Several media sources cite students in attendance quoting
Walters as saying he could “end their life with a stroke of the pen.”
The three white teens involved with hanging
the nooses are suspended from school. But
many black residents of the town view the act
as a hate crime and demand they be expelled.
Outbreaks of violence between blacks and whites continue in the town,
including a report of several teens being chased with a shotgun by a white
man. On Nov. 30, 2006, a portion of the high school is destroyed by fire in a
case that officials investigate as an act of arson.
ALL PHO TOGRAPHS AP IMAGES