September 19th, 2007
06:15 PM ET
11 years ago

The politics of the Jena 6 case

Watch Bill Schneider's report about the 2008 presidential candidates and the Jena 6 controversy.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN's Bill Schneider takes a look at how and why some of the 2008 presidential candidates are weighing in on the case of six black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana.

Related: Jesse Jackson: Obama's 'acting like he's white'

Related: Clinton: 'Jena 6' a 'teachable moment'

Related: Edwards calls for racial justice for 'Jena 6'

More: Court: It's 'premature' to consider motion to release Jena 6 defendant

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Marc New Brunswick, NJ

    They are marching because of the injustice served out by the prosecutor. If you read ALL of the facts there is no way you can say the prosecutor was fair and unbiased.

    September 20, 2007 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  2. Nicosia Davis, Petersburg,Va

    As a young Black American, no one is saying that these boys shouldn't be punished but 22 years to life in jail for a school yard fight when the white children got nothing, not even a slap on wrist for the nooses. People are marching in Jena because of the unfairness of the Justice System, not just in Jena but in America period.

    September 20, 2007 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  3. Shanon, Houston Tx


    September 20, 2007 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. Jayson, Beale AFB, CA

    Sirena your ranting and raving like a loon. Should charges have been pressed against the white kids? Yes, you betcha. However charges are usually brought based on the crime as well as the one who commits the crime. You say that this was just a fight, however you ignore the fact that some of these "boys" had previous offenses in the juvenille system.

    The fact that black leaders only made this into an issue after the black boys were arrested doesn't say much for the black leadership. They had an issue to raise when the nooses were raised and when the black boy was beat up. They could be pressing for charges against the white boys who beat up the black kid but they aren't. They instead prefer the continuation of hypocrisy by saying that there is no real crime committed by beating up a boy who used racial slurs. Because were not thinking human being who talk things out, were all just a bunch of animals who should be allowed to beat people up who say things we don't like.

    September 20, 2007 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  5. Pat, Huntington, NY

    I still don't get the outrage? A group of 6 guys beat the crap out of another guy to the point of almost killing him and they're not supposed to be charged accordingly...with attempted murder? What? I guess it's ok for a group of blacks to almost kill a white person or else you're racist. Again, I'm still not getting this?

    September 20, 2007 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  6. Dixon Benshoof, Des Moines Iowa

    I wonder what Jessi means by "to White"? I guess it is ok to make racial slurs if you are not white. I think he was also there demanding the white youth on the lacross team be jailed for something they didn't do. Now he wants "racial justice" for black youth who it has been proven beat this kid down. I agree the charges were harsh. They should be reduced and dealt with in Juvenile court. If all this were reversed to 6 white youth beating a black youth like this Jessi and that freak Sharpton would be arguing the oposite until the white youth were in prison. These two like to hear themselves make noise and have zero credibility.

    September 20, 2007 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. James Atlanta GA.

    I can tell from the responses provided, that you have not been properly educated in the Jena situation. The lack of knowledge is more the media's fault, than it is your own. They've (media) have chosen to keep you up to speed on Brittney and O.J. instead of this horrible injustice that has been going on since LAST YEAR! The nooses that were hung on the tree were only the trigger that set of a series of events that has lead up to the march today. No one has told you that the principal expelled the students that hung the nooses but the DA (who is also on the schoolboard) reinstated the kids after a 3-day suspension. Or, that over the course of the next two months several fights happened as a result, including one white kid pulling a gun on a black kid. Or, that the same D.A. came to speak to the black kids "only" and told them that if they kept it up, then he would "make their lives hell". No one mentioned that the kid that got beat up was part of a group of kids that were yelling racial slurs and that the fight was evenly matched when it started. Or, that the kid that got beat up was at a school function later that day, hanging out with his friends. No, the media has not found it important enough to give all of these facts. Instead, they would have you believe that it is just another racial incident. Its much more than that. You have 6 highschool kids sitting in prision for a year of their life because of a highschool fight. A highschool fight and the kids were charged with attempted murder? I hope this helps, but it probably wont get added to the ticker.

    September 20, 2007 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. Kayne, Charlotte NC

    First and foremost, let us remember that this is not about personal opinion on criminal justice and due process. This is about social change. The year is 2007 yet this town and it's people are lost in the pre-King era. We must move onward. This is proof that while we travel to foreign countries to end civil wars, there is still a civil war on American soil, one of race and hatred. We shun those of difference rather than respecting those unique qualities and learning from them. These kids are not what the protest is about. The protest is about the illumination of social hatred. Finally, let it be known that psychological warfare is far more deadly than physical warfare. Hence, the torment of images of bondage and slavery can invoke life threatening reactions from those who have an thorough understanding of oppression and slavery. Crime deserves punishment, yes. But let us examine crimes of both ignorance and of retaliation equally.

    September 20, 2007 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  9. Washington, DC

    For those who belittle the situation in Jena, understand this. These kids had been taunted the majority of white kids for weeks leading up to this incident. It is obvious that some are you are ignorant to the facts in this case.
    1. The white kid got beat up becuase he attempted to use a firearm to kill one or all of the black kids involved.

    2. The nose is normally a warning that worse things are comming. I am sure some the white readers do not understand this nor do some of you care to understand.

    3. The kid that got beat up was beat becuase he sought to harm or kill some one else, this seemed to be ignored in this case. When the sheriff became involved he took the firearm and thought it was clear who owned it, charged the black teens for posession of a deadly weapon and NO charges against the teen that branished the weapon.

    4. In previous case when blacks were attacked, no charges where filed.

    5. even though this can quilfy as a hate crime, no charges where file for the nose incident or the multiple taunting incidents that occured previously.

    6. No substantial action was taken for threats against black students. The kids that initiated this where simple sent home and "asked not to do it again"

    Please ladies and gentlemen, before making statements about this issue, arm yourself with FACTS and not conjecture or rumors. Maybe you will be able to form a more objective opinion and not one along racial lines.

    September 20, 2007 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. Krystal, Atlanta, Georgia

    I'm appalled by the myopic point of view many of you seem to have regarding this case. This is not and has never been about absolving these young men of the act they committed. It is about the reason why they did not receive an appropriate punishment for the crime they committed. It is about the trend of white citizens receiving shockingly lighter sentences for similar crimes. It is about a vigilante district attorney who believed he was above the system of judicial checks and balances so dear to this nation. No one wishes harm to the victim in this case, but the issue of race-based inconsistencies in the handing down of punishments is of far greater significance on a national level. The issue examines the core a nation with an ethnic majority that majorly that just doesn't "get it" or just doesn't care about these disparities.

    September 20, 2007 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  11. Gabriel, Cleveland, Ohio

    It's obvious to me that many either don't have the whole story or they wish to turn a blind eye to the racial disparity that still exists in this country. I am neither white nor black so I have no loyalty to either race, but the facts of this case seem plain to me. A school fight was turned into charges of attempted murder for the black children who beat up the white child but the hanging of nooses, the attacks on blacks by whites, the incident of the white child having a gun was dismissed as almost harmless. Three day suspension for hanging nooses? That is not just a prank people. The whites in this case are not receiving the same treatment as the blacks and it is a constant occurrence in our justice system and society. Yet when it is brought up, many white people just say "here we ago again, the race card" and act like there's no problem. It's frustrating for people of color and you just don't get it. Most people supporting the Jena 6 aren't excusing their behavior, they just believe they are receiving unjust treatment and it's hard not agree if you look objectively at the facts.

    I have also heard enough of whites complaining about hate crime charges like it was made just to stop whites from attacking minorities. If you would do a little research, you would see that the key case supporting hate crime charges was an assault by a group of blacks on a white man. The group just got done watching the film Mississippi Burning. One suggested that if the group was upset at whites, they should take it out on a white guy just walking down the street. They did and were charged with a hate crime. So for those asking if hate crime charges apply when whites are attacked, the answer is of course.

    As for Jesse's comments about Obama, that what minorities, not just blacks, have to deal with. You try to achieve you meet resistance not only from some whites but also from your own kind that don't want you to achieve. Obama was one of the first candidates to speak of the Jena 6 and he did call the charges inappropriate. Jesse should know it is hard enough for a black candidate to get a number whites to support him, if he speaks too strongly on the issue, he will just about ruin his chances at the presidency.

    September 20, 2007 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    Clinton called into a radio show to talk to Al Sharpton about this???

    Does ANYONE think this is anything less than overt pandering?

    These young adults (4 of whom were adults under LA law and 1 who had a criminal record prior to the incident) got together and beat the hell out of another student who had nothing to do with anything involving hate crimes. They should pay to the full extent of the law for what they did.

    All this other stuff is being brought up to cloud the issue and give bottom dwellers like Sharpton and Jackson the opportunity to come in and do some political grandstanding.

    Meanwhile, the ambulence chaser Hillary, hears about some disturbance off in the distance and quickly dials up the cause of the disturbance to try and get some of the African American vote.

    Then of course, the other instigator, accuses the African American candidate of acting like a white person.

    Folks, THESE ARE BAD PEOPLE. They are PART OF THE PROBLEM and NOT part of the solution. Please, don't be fooled.

    September 20, 2007 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Dixon Benshoof, Des Moines Iowa

    If all these excuses are true then there are legal ways to deal with it. The south doesn't have a corner on the market when it comes to lousy DA's. The DA in the LaCross case was found out and dealt with. The youth that hung the noose should be punished as well as the youth who beat this kid down. Both are hate crimes in my opinion. Make all the excuses you want, but the facts are still the facts. OJ is a perfect example. Money talks, not race.

    September 20, 2007 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Angry, Washington DC

    I am going to detract slightly from the previous writer. We should be looking for the complete clearance of charges

    Unfortunately many of the facts are not kown by our white collegues here.

    First of all to the comments of the kid being beaten to near death. This is completely untrue.
    This young man was hit by a black teenager in the group becuase he was attemptting to wrestle a shotgun from him. A shot gun he plan to use to kill any number of the black teens in question. Our White writers may not be aware that one of the black boys was beaten savagely by 4 white teens at a party over next to nothing. The others black teens came to RESCUE this boy. When they stop the beating of the black teen, one the responisble teens, the "victim" went to his truck and got a SHOTGUN to kill the black teens involved. That is when one of the black teens wrestled with this person took the gun away to save there lives, in the process the the gun tooting victim was struck in the face 3 times. Suffered a black eye and facial abrasions...NOT a concussion like some have attempted to report.

    Unfortunately, many of you have been under-informed or mis-informed. I hope this helps you understand the postion that we are taking.

    September 20, 2007 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. Pat, huntington, ny

    Ok, fine, I get it. My only question now is this, what would be the response from people like those idiots Sharpton and Jackson if the situation were reversed? Undoubtedly, they'ld scream for the white kids' heads on a platter.

    September 20, 2007 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. Greg, Phoenix, AZ


    Exactly how do you know who is "white" and who is "black" on this message board?

    Are you suggesting that ALL white people are on one side and ALL black people are on the other?

    This is the kind of thinking that represents the PROBLEM and NOT the solution in this country.

    If your version of the facts has any merit whatsoever I am sure that it will come out at the end of the day.

    September 20, 2007 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. The Clueless Man In Pittsburgh

    Heres the deal. These guys that hung these nooses are racist cowards. By hanging those nooses they showed a delibrate threat to any black student in that school. In fear for what could be their lives, these men showed there real colors by kicking ass the old fashion way showing these hillbillies there not as cowardly as they are hiding behind there confederate flags and Clan masks. Got news for you and the rest of your buddys. The south lost. There is no more confederacy. This is AMERICA. What happened to the day, when one who deserves it could get a real good ASS-WHOOPPIN' and that be the end of it. This Whole Story is blown way out of proportion. And im not black. I'm white. I just think that kid deserved to get beat up. The kid didnt even look that bad. I've seen worse. Let this be proof that the world is different than it was forty years ago and you cant go around threatening people with nooses. racism makes me sick

    September 20, 2007 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. Angry, Washington DC

    Pat, it the situation was identical then I would really see you point. Honestly though Jessie probably would not be involved if this was reversed racism. But when has this really happened.

    September 20, 2007 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  19. Pat, Huntington, NY

    Now that I think about it, while I stand by my opinion of Sharpton and Jackson, I retract my reverse discrimination reference because the reality is that if it were a group of whites against a gun pointing black student, the appropriate non-excessive charges would have been made against the right people in the right courts. Ok, I finally get it. Thanks for the education on this matter from the prior commentators. I truly didn't know all the facts.

    September 20, 2007 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Tim

    Angry, Washington DC – you really need to get your facts straight before you start calling other people misinformed. If you feel you have reported the true story I'd like to see your sources. is pretty reliable and based on their version you are combining two separate events into one.

    September 20, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. Giving you a Clue, EHT, NJ

    Aside from the racial aspect of the case, the fact remains that there are six teenage boys on trial for "attempted murder" for an incident in which, under normal circumstances, the charge would be aggravated assault. Charges that would in most cases, again under normal circumstances, be downgraded to simple assault because the injuries were not (by the admittance of the media, hospital officials, and the fact that the child was released from the hospital the same day and out in public later that evening)life threatening.

    The question of 'justice' is raised due to the fact that the US Constitution, not the "black" or the "white" constitution, states under the 8th amendment that citizens have the right not to incur "excessive bail" and/or "cruel or 'unusual' punishment" for a crime. Rights that were clearly violated in this case. So much so, that one of the boy's sentences was overturned yet he is still incarcerated. Hence the term "free the Jena 6".

    Regardless of how one feels regarding the racial tensions that this incident has produced, one cannot deny nor should it be overlooked that these boys have not been treated fairly by the criminal justice system or the school officials involved.

    If anger needs to be directed at anyone, it needs to be towards the ADULTS who were in positions to de-escalate the situation before it got to this point and chose not to do so for the sake of their own pride and prejudices.

    No one has the right to physically harm anyone. But shame is on those who feel that these children deserve 22 years in prison for a fight (granted one that may have gotten out of hand)...but nevertheless a fight!

    This is why thousands are marching through a town for 'injustice'!

    September 20, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. Gayla, Fort Myers Florida

    And just to add a little perspective into the whole deal...

    The fact that a white kid got beat up is not the issue...the MAIN issue and what seems to be overlooked is that an injustice has occurred. Had the students who hung the nooses been dealt with in a more appropriate manner, the events that happed after that would not have occurred. There would be no news to report except what should have been the headline, "3 white students expelled from school for hanging nooses from a tree". How can we as a nation, justify these actions?? WE can't. Regardless of who was right, action should have been taken appropriately against those white students who felt the need to stir up racial tension. What it boils down to is this: the accountability for the actions that started this whole mess was not dealt with and when more incidents started to happen, more slaps on the hands, if that, kept on occurring...but as soon as someone stands up for themselves or is finally fed up, no one wants to take a stand and admit any wrong doing. Here's food for thought, if a woman-regardless of color, is beaten over and over by her husband and he is never punished and doesn't stop the beatings; is the woman wrong for one day finally defending herself and the husband ends up dead or hurt? It's a crazy world we live in, but when justice is not being served...what type of message is being conveyed?

    September 20, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. James Atlanta GA

    I am so glad that this dialogue is opening up. The importnace of Jenna 6 stretches far past the injustice that is going on in Louisiana. We still have a racial divide in this country and it is evident in the comments that are on this blog. The divide has been perpetuated by the media's calculated decision to "word" stories in a way that doesnt correctly give the whole story. Since you are only hearing a slanted/condensed version of the facts, along with an over-hyped O.J. story directly afterwards, it makes it easy to rush to one opinion. If you really looked at the dynamics of the story, where young boys that were basically defending themselves wound up in a hardened prison and were being told the rest of their lives will be spent in prison for a school yard fight – then you would laugh at the fact that the media has highlighted some silly comments about Jesse Jackson and Obama just to steer you away from the real issues of injustice. Its basic bait-and-switch. You may not agree with Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpton but their presence in this case is necessary just so that the media brings some attention to it. I dont fault any white person that doesnt understand how much of an issue this is because more than likely, you havent had to deal with these types of biases. But the truth is, many black people do. I have been pulled over and harrassed without merit and taken to jail for (in a civial manner)questioning the reason for being pulled over. I can give you a laundary list of incedents that I have encountered all because of my skin complexion (and most importantly) that you would not be able to relate to. I applaud you if you are trying to gain understanding by way of this case, because its not about justifying any of the actions that occurred in Jena (the noose, the shotgun being pulled, the fights, etc.) all of those events were wrong – but what should stand out is that no kid, white or black, should have to go to prison for being a kid. Its worng no matter what color you are, blacks just so happen to experience this same "type" of wrong more often, hence the frustration, passion, outrage, and hope for improvement.

    September 20, 2007 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. Gayla, Fort Myers Florida

    Angry in Washington, I'm with you on that...what could possibly be hung from a tree to infuriate a couple of white kids and excite racial tension???? I know, KKK dummies!!

    September 20, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. J. Augusta, Georgia

    When conducting an autopsy on the appalling irony of social progress of this country, it is paramount that we herald the true victim: truth.None of us, the student body of Jena, the accused nor the victim’s parents, the district attorneys nor the news media will ever be able to convincingly detail the events leading up to this moment in history. None but those directly involved. All we have to debate is our perception of what we claim to know. And for any of you to espouse anger and hurl vitriolic daggers of condemnation, you are just as guilty of the aggravated assault on the truth. It’s disparagingly evident why our children can’t see past skin color. Why would anyone need permission to sit under a tree? Why would anyone feel the need to have to ask for permission to sit under a tree? Why would humor be found in the form of nooses? Why would such a deliberate act of misplaced “humor” be granted encouragement through frivolous terms such as “prank”? Why were these “comedians” rewarded with a 3-day reprieve from studying 200 years of historical social “jokes”? Why were the comedian’s parents satisfied with that reprisal? Why would any civic-minded authority feel it wise to not reproach such behavior in the community over which it presides? Why would violence and support of it be acceptable to those who felt slighted by the whole joke? Why would society tolerate the beating of one it’s members and advocate the freedom of those remiss in promoting civility? Why would medical professionals “release within hours” any victim beaten within inches of its life? Why would any victim that lived to see the morning sunrise want to deny that power of redemption to it’s aggressors?Why won’t anyone remember why the caged bird sings and why apples don’t fall too far from trees?

    September 20, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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