September 19th, 2007
03:00 PM ET
16 years ago

Clinton: 'Jena 6' a 'teachable moment'

Clinton said the Jena case is a 'teachable moment for America.'

(CNN)- Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, says the controversy surrounding the "Jena 6" court case is a "teachable moment for America."

"People need to understand that we cannot let this kind of inequality and injustice happen anywhere in America," the Democratic presidential hopeful told Rev. Al Sharpton when she called into his nationally syndicated radio program Tuesday afternoon.

She was speaking about a case in the town of Jena, Louisiana, where six African-American teenagers were initially charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit attempted murder in connection with the Dec. 4 beating of a white student.

Last Friday, the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Lake Charles, Louisiana threw out the conviction for second degree battery against one of the boys, Mychal Bell, saying the charges should have been brought in juvenile court. Charges against Bell were reduced, as were charges against Carwin Jones and Theodore Shaw, who have not yet come to trial. Bryant Purvis and an unidentified juvenile remain charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The New York senator said she has put a request into the Bush administration to ask the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to investigate the case because, "we have a responsibility to confront racial injustice and intolerance anywhere." She said she did so because she was troubled by reports that the youths were charged and sentenced in a manner that may have been inconsistent with what was called for.

On Thursday, thousands of people are expected to march on the small central Louisiana town to protest what they feel are excessive criminals charges and bond amounts for the teens.

–CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. C.LyOnS, New York, NY

    Jeff from VA

    HAve you read the full story surrounding these circumstances...? First the tree was considered the "white tree"...a black student sat under it one day-and the next day nooses were strung from it. Three day "in-school" suspension was the result...some time after a white student at the school pulled a gun on a group of black students at a convenience store-rightful got his behind kicked....The tension in that town was pretty thick but as an African-American I am in no way condoning the black students actions but to give the situation some context, while considering these are teenagers the situation was way out of hand...their are better ways of handling the situation but to charge the students with attepmted murder considering the fact that the defendant left the hospital the same day would be considered excessive....

    September 19, 2007 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  2. Tony....Louisville, Ky..

    Mrs. Clinton needs to stop sucking up to racist like Al Sharpton. The problem in Jena isnt inequality, its a parental problem, just like all over this country. Its a problem that occurred hundreds of years ago! I thought Lincoln resolved that problem?
    White parents need to teach their children about slavery and how wrong it was towards blacks in those days.
    Black parents need to teach their children that those days are over now.
    Stop using the past as an excuse to get what you want. Some idiot white people think they're better than everyone else...Blacks think the people today still owe them something.
    They're BOTH wrong in their thinking!
    When we see packs of kids running the streets like a pack of dogs, you see which parents were too stupid to teach their own kids right from wrong! Black AND white!

    September 19, 2007 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  3. James, Phoenix AZ

    Thomas – CO

    You wrote, "but you chose to aim your partisan words at her. Is it because she is a woman? I guess you can pick and choose your reaction to perceived prejudice (black/white, male/female) or pandering when it is convenient for you."

    My partisan words? I think any Presidential candidate that jumps on a band wagon with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are doing so because they are pandering to Jesse & Al's followers.

    I could care less whether the politician is female, male, black, white, burnt orange, democrat, republican, libertarian. I, like many Americans, are TIRED of hearing the racists mouthpieces (Jesse/Al) crying how unfair 6 (black) young men charged with a crime after they beat 1 young man unconcious.

    You don't want to be charged with a crime (assualt, attempted murder, WHATEVER) – don't punch, kick, or otherwise assualt someone. The result of Hillary, Jesse, Al (and everyone else jumping on this bandwagon) sends the message – violence is ok.

    If my distain for this behavior of defending violent hooligans makes me partisan – then stamp a large P on me.

    September 19, 2007 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  4. Eduardo, Los Angeles, CA

    Why must Race always be an issue. If these kids are guilty, whether white or black, they should be punished..period. Do we have complete backgrounds on all youths involved and the complete story of what happened or led to the incident? Do these young men have criminal records? What's going on in our school systems? Why must a young man ask a Vice Principal for permission to sit under a tree? What's happening America? Metal Detectors in schools? However, religion is not allowed....perhaps that's what is needed...PREACHING THE WORD OF GOD AND MOST IMPORTANTLY IN THE HOME WHERE IT ALL STARTS! PARENTS NEED TO GET INVOLVED IN THEIR CHILDREN'S LIVES, WHO THEY HANG AROUND WITH AND ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY TO SET EXAMPLES...OTHERWISE DON'T HAVE THEM. WATCH WHAT YOU TEACH YOUR CHILDREN FOR ALL EYES ARE UPON YOU!

    September 19, 2007 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. Devil's Advocate

    Just to stir the pot a little bit. I don't condone the noose prank. But, were they not just using a symbolic means to express their objection to the kids sitting under the tree? Would that not be covered under the first amendment? Or, is free-speech only allowed if it agrees with the agenda of the majority? There are KKK rallies and neo-Nazi rallies that take place in the public square, are those not symbolic racial ly energized events where the participants are exercising their right to free speech?

    In the story yesterday, a majority of posters were livid at the police for tazering a young man for his free-speech antics, yet, it almost seems OK to beat the crap out of another for the same.

    I know the acts were abominable, and the penalties seemed a bit severe, but on the other hand one of the six had a nice rap sheet. In Florida they have that three strike rule for handgun use while committing a crime and once the third strike is achieved, the severity of the crime doesn't really weigh-in, 10-20-LIFE!

    Just sayin'

    September 19, 2007 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  6. Andrew, Jakarta, Indonesia

    Pure opportunism on her part. There is something akin to Nixon in Hillary.

    September 19, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. Anthony Davis, San Antonio Texas

    I am always amazed at the intellectual capacity of the American people. This topic is not about Ms, Clinton, but rather the "racial history of this country" once again rearing its UGLY HEAD. The commits by the anti Clinton crowd, is a depiction of why we wound up with a President like George Bush. Instead of recognizing what is important for our nation, our economy, and our people, some of us continue to get caught up in non related issues and diverted from what is really important. Something went wrong involving the (Jena6), and what we need to concentrate on is what went wrong. While we in the public will never know exactly what happened,something went wrong and we need to get as close to the truth as possible. The road to the White House is long; you will have plenty of time to bash HILLARY!

    September 19, 2007 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  8. Cathy M in Tn

    I'm sick of all this black white c..p too. Fighting is wrong and fighting like a gang is even worse. Lessons must be learned here and color is not the lesson.

    Hillary is just playing politics.

    September 19, 2007 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  9. Johney, FL

    Anytime Hillary does something or says something everyone here says she is pandering. BUT everyone knows that if she didn't say anything then there would be an uproar. There are a bunch of uneducated hypocrits posting their uneducated bashing of Hillary Clinton everytime she does something. So all these people think she should not do anything because that would look great? Hillary is just stating her beliefs and thoughts on current topics, but all of a sudden she's pandering? Get over it. I am not a big fan of Hillary either, but some people(and I mean uneducated people) always find something negative to say every time Hillary does something or says something. She is not pandering, she is just sharing her thoughts and beliefs much like everyone on this blog is doing. You all are a bunch of hypocrits.

    September 20, 2007 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  10. Bill Charleston SC

    Awwwwww those poor minority students. Never mind that they beat a fellow classmate and put him in the hospital. Let's just concentrate on the color of their skin.


    Let the justice system work people. Charges are already being reduced and verdicts overturned. So what is the big deal?

    I wonder if Jesse and Al would be running their mouths as loudly if the Jena 6 were white and the beaten student were black. Probably. But they'd be calling for the maximum penalty if that were the case.

    Yes racisim is alive and well in our country. But it is the black leaders who perpetuate racism today. And they do it for selfish personal reasons. And they disgust me.

    September 20, 2007 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  11. patricia, oakland ca

    in response to should read before you type. a groupd of white kids did beat up 1 black child and guess what no charges were filed. Try reading more next time before you speak. There is a lot to this case that is pure racisim.

    September 20, 2007 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  12. Chris, Middletown, CT

    PEOPLE...people should be outraged about Hillarys support for the 6 kids who beat up another and were celebrated. First she stands with the unions (who have crippled this country) and now stands with racists Sharpton and Jackson – and rumor has it there are some who would vote for such a person for President?? We are a nation of people...all different the end....we are people – and as elected King of the people – we decided that Hillary is no longer a viable candidate...and should be deported to the first socialist country that wants her (and her waffler husband)

    September 20, 2007 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  13. RuthieM

    Why did Clinton make her comments well AFTER Obama made his? If she's such a leader, why didn't she step up to this plate first? Funny, and now all you see is Clinton's face on the Jena 6 issue. Where was Obama's face in the news when he was the first among all the presidential candidates who spoke out about this outrage? Nowhere.

    September 20, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  14. Rhonnybay Indiana

    WOW...its so clear that you guys don't know the complete story.

    Its not that the kids shouldn't have been charged with something but its the sentencing that people are taking issue with especially when there was a group of white kids that beat up some black kids and were charged with a lesser crime.

    The bonds were set higher. This is about fairness. Let's not compare Duke and Jena especially when you even have some of the Lacrosse parents going to Jena in support of the rally.

    Jena is wrong. Duke was wrong.

    September 20, 2007 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  15. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    Hillary is the Prima Dona of racial baiting. Leave it to her to further the divide and kiss Mr. Jackson's er, um feet.

    What are we teaching these boys, any color when we say, well so and so got off easier...? And we don't focus on the grossness of the crime? That sounds like something my kids would say to get out of a consequence...

    You got to be kidding. If there was too lenient of a sentence in the past, do look at it, but don't ignore the grossness of today's crime. These boys are being made heros and/or victims. Is that really in anybody's best interest, especially these boys?? NO.

    September 20, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. Jim, Durham NC

    Still waiting for Jesse to apologize to the Duke lacrosse players...

    (oops, they're white, nevermind.)

    September 20, 2007 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  17. KarmaKills New York, New York

    As a Native American, I am apalled by this. Where has this country's reason and common sense gone? The 3 white boys hung nooses from a tree, which was wrong and unacceptable, and for which they were suspended. The 6 black boys assaulted and beat a single white boy until he was unconscious and are facing criminal charges.

    One act is by far more vile than the other and is being treated as such, but only by the school and the judicial system. Though what the white boys did was wrong and racist, they didn't harm anyone. What the black boys did was also wrong and racist, but they chose to gang up, 6 on 1, and beat a white boy until he was unconscious.

    It is very indicative of how warped our society has become that there is an uproar not over the fact that what the 6 black boys did was racist, violent, and could have killed the boy, but because they are facing criminal charges due to it and because the white boys, who did not harm anyone were only suspended and did not have criminal charges brought against them.

    Nevermind the fact that the 6 black boys participated in a violent hate crime, or the fact that they ganged up on the boy 6 to 1 and beat him until he was bloody and unconscious, or that one of them was on probation and has a criminal record, or that the attack place months after the noose hanging event. Don't concern yourself with the fact that the D.A. attempted to find something to charge the white boys with but could not find any law which they had broken.

    It becomes more and more evident with every passing year how biased our media has become, how overly PC our country is, and how racist the majority of the black community is. Our nation should be in an uproar over the fact that these boys ganged up on another lone boy and beat him until he was bloody and unconcious because his skin was the wrong color. Our nation should be in an uproar because 5 of those 6 boys are out walking the streets right now. It should be in an uproar over the slant and biased with which this is being covered by many news outlets, how the story and facts are being twisted, and most importantly by how the black community behaves.

    Every year I see more and more of this, blacks protesting because blacks were arrested, because the government or someone else did something that angered them. They, the media, and the PC/Thought Police attempt to villinaize anyone who speaks out, yet it's perfectly acceptable to for the black community to say anything racist they like, even for 6 of them to beat a white boy half to death until he passed out. Then they want the 3 white boys who hung the nooses to face charges, though it was wrong and at school, they WERE exercising their freedom of speech. It's ok when the black community does or says something racist, even violent, but the no one else is allowed to even express an opinion they don't like without being attacked and villainized.

    September 21, 2007 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  18. Dr Durand, Sunny, California

    And it's so sad she didn't teach them and prevent this nonsense in 1992....

    "The events related in this case are all a microcycle of socio-economic descent, resultant from a dysfunction of the Representative Government, the Grand Jury (Civil and Criminal) in Louisiana.....which is a stage two to stage three International Criminal Overthrow (Attack) Strategy....and results in massive quantities of debt being produced (as well as the worst form of Terrorism, that your government will be your attacker, and is therefore due the $500,000 Reward of 18USC3071, if any cases are)....until you get these New Scientific Government Training Programs implemented (directly, by government administrators at city or parish councils; or indirectly, via the Grand Jury's verdict or finding), you'll never fix the problem. It's like Dr. Einstein's disproof of Faraday's physical assertions, from that point forward, everything else was either a counterfeit of Dr. Einstein's materials or outright-fraud (producing debt, either way) too it is with these Scientific Government Training materials, as I told them, since 1988-89 in opposition-admitted Louisiana Lawsuits (before the $8 Trillion-plus deficit it produced, through counterfeits of these materials and otherwise). If the Grand Juries were working properly (instead of having knowledge of a crime, upon it being presented to them, without taking appropriate action and, resultantly, becoming principal to the crime alleged and all future crimes), these matters would've been prevented at the first beating stage of this socio-economic-descent event (or before), instead of later (after more crime and debt had occurred)....... We have the only programs, they need only implement them.......

    Without support and defense of the U.S. Constitution (properly functioning Grand Juries-the ONLY Representative Government Body-as the Scientific Government Training Programs proved in an opposition-admitted case in 1988-89, in Louisiana); there is no justice...and those doing otherwise aren't seeking justice (just undue gain). Where your Grand Juries aren't issuing Civil Debts, True Bills, EVERYTIME wrongdoing's officially have no representative government, just ever-worsening criminal organization (and debt, unto collapse). Only when the Grand Jury has convicted or acquitted, will there be justice (for the children beaten at the party to those beaten later, as has been reported)-it is slavery and all those doing otherwise are agents of slavery's continuance (black, white, brown, and otherwise, as slavery's always been).FREE LOUISIANA, NOW, GET THE GRAND JURIES WORKING THERE, CIVIL AND CRIMINAL (THE SCIENTIFIC GOVERNMENT TRAINING PROGRAMS IMPLEMENTED, ASAP)!!! The Jena 6 (and noone else) will be FREE in Louisiana, until you for the Program's Test Materials......when you're ready to get started....everything else expands debt and crime, instead of resolving it.....The Materials that would've prevented Every Major Disaster in the U.S., since Reagan left office (1988-89), if unobstructed by forever-prohibited (in 1776), jury bypassing, International-criminal-determinations, right here in America ($500,000 Rewards are due for those convicted of obstructing such grand jury, representative government, function....18USC3071)....After writing for "THE TEST FROM THE MATERIALS THAT WOULD'VE PREVENTED EVERY MAJOR U.S. DISASTER, SINCE 1988-89, AND WOULD'VE PREVENTED THE DISRUPTION IN THE LIVES OF THESE CHILDREN (AND SHALL PREVENT SUCH DISRUPTIONS IN THE LIVES OF ALL FUTURE CHILDREN IN LOUISIANA, UPON BEING IMPLEMENTED)...GUARANTEED".......You can start to distribute them to your newsmedia (Franklin-like "Mercury(s)" and Marx-like "Mouths of the Empire", alike) and government employees, until they're implemented and you'll actually be eliminating the problem (everything else will just make things worse, with scientific certainty, while pretending it's an improvement for illegal-profits-sake).

    RCCFM; Always:

    Dr. Eric Durand, Ph.D.....

    September 21, 2007 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  19. Ryan M., Arlington, VA

    I am a supporter of Hillary, although now she looks to be courting some votes in her answer. There is injustice and inequality all the time. As long as we divide ourselves on race, it will always create tension.
    Kids fight. They argue and they are harsh to one another. I was gay in high school and got called all types of names and death threats. Did I feel that it was a call for violence? NO.
    Any violence, unless it is for defense, is wrong. Even during the Civil Rights Movement, we embraced non-violent change in an issue that was more important then kids scuffles.
    Now 6 kids, that want to get off, are playing a race card. These kids took it too far and now they need to do murder is too harsh of a charge for a fight, but doing time for an assult is not.

    September 21, 2007 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. Betty

    This should have been handled by the school. The boys who put up the nooses should have been expelled from school.I hear some say it is not racial,Then what was it?A prank is meant to be funny.That was not funny and it sent a messange to every child in that school. If your not the right color you are not welcome everywhere. Well you know what, every Child has the right to go to school and feel safe.Not be threaten by other kids.Each has the same rights as the others and that is what our children need to be taught at home.The Jena 6 should not have beat up that boy but we really do not know why and I would would like to know what else has been happening in that town.

    September 21, 2007 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. Ken Pace

    Bill and Hillary ae no more than slim that has formed into human like substance and have slithered through life telling lies that liberals believe

    September 21, 2007 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  22. H.Thomas New York, NY

    Please inform yourselves people! These kids were retaliating from a previous attack where a group of white kids beat up a single black kid. So for all of you who are saying "if the situation were reversed..." HELLO it was reversed. And the white kids walked away unpunished... And the black kids were charged with MURDER. PLEASE get all the facts before you respond in the future.

    And CNN blogger I encourage you in the future that if you are going to post an abbreviated version of the story please at least link to the complete coverage so that people can take in the news IN CONTEXT.

    Folks do not allow the media to think for you. Get the FACTS as often as you can! And reading all your uninformed comments have certainly been a teaching moment for me, though a scary one.

    Please visit the CNN Timeline outlining the racist events and fights preceeding the charges being filed against the JENA 6

    or watch this video which was released back in July to raise awareness of this case:


    September 22, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  23. V. Fair, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

    As a Black female, from Senator Clinton's home state of Arkansas, I applaud the stance she has taken against racial injustice in this country. However, the world MUST be made aware of the fact that here in the deep south, not much has actually changed for us. The racial inequalities are VERY MUCH alive, and running rampant here in the deep south.

    Take me for instance... I am a fifty-one year old Black female, with a B.A. degree in Criminal Justice, and a Master's Degree in Social Work. I have 20 years experience as a Legal Assistant in a local law firm, and 12 years experience working in a State Prison, here in Arkansas. Yet, notwithstanding all of that... I make only approx. $27,000 per year, while WHITES with NO EDUCATION at all, besides a GED, and some who can barely write a sentence literally earn twice my salary. This type of racial injustice is how whites systemically treat most educated Blacks here in the South. This is the blatant truth of the matter. One truth that is ignored by the rest of the world. The only alternative is to file costly litigation, and have the very same prejudicial whites decide the fate of such a case. Our only help is for the Department of Justice to take a more active role in investigating these claims, and thereby righting some of the wrongs that continue to take place against Blacks here in the south. The media plays a very important role in making the public aware of the fact that Blacks in the south have no equality or justice! America needs to wake up, and realize that the spin southern White government officials and polititions put on racial conditions in the south are just good sound lies, so that the real "truth" never surfaces. However, when situations such as the "Jena 6" arise, the world gets a small peek at what happens on a daily basis in the south. Thanks CNN for reporting on this matter.

    V. F.

    September 22, 2007 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  24. Sasha Quintana Portland, OR

    I am in total disgust by the lack of understanding... Yes, six Black kids did beat up one White kid but it wasn't attempted murder. The young man who was beat up walked out of the hospital two hours after he was admitted. The issue here is not that we "free" the Jena six but that we as a country and among people of color stand up. Stand up for the fact that these six young boys are being charged with attempted murder and facing unfair harsh treatment. I being a person of color am not protesting that these six boys be free from the consquences of their actions, but I am protesting the rather harsh treatment they are recieving. It's apparent that most of you whom are writing these henious and ignorant comments are white. White people who are upper class and have never had to deal with a civil rights issue personally. It's easy to judge from the outside looking in. Teens are going to fight eachother and with all do respect hanging nooses from a tree isn't the brightest idea. Of course the sensible thing to do was for the teens to notify the school staff and simply ignore their acts of hate. However, we all know teens can get out of hand while emotions are running wild. The fact of the matter is that these six boys are being taught a "lesson" that will ruin any future professional and personal goals. They don't deserve to sit in prison for 20 years for beating someone up. Which by the way happens everyday in Highschools around the country. I am not justifying their behavior but their unfair acusations are unwarrented. People can tip toe around this issue all day, but racism is still very much alive.

    September 24, 2007 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  25. Dee, Ashburn, VA

    Correction: You're only the bully majority in the USA. There are plethoras of countries now that hate this country solely because of idiots like you.

    Seek professional help.

    September 24, 2007 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
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