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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

DC Editorial: Both sides of the story

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Whether it was through Facebook groups, news broadcasts, YouTube posts, or word of mouth, most people have been exposed to the incident that occurred in small-town Jena, Louisiana.

The so-called Jena 6 were imprisoned and tried for assaulting Justin Barker, a white 17-year-old, after he allegedly mocked one of the Jena 6 for being attacked at a party a few days earlier.

Following the incident, hoards of protesters flowed into Jena, ready to demand justice for the six. The assault was spurred by prejudicial occurrences in Jena and thus the protesters were asking for racial justice, especially concerning the trial of a member of the six: Mychal Bell.

Bell was tried by an all-white jury, although black people were called to the jury selection as well. This fact has lead many people to assume the decision reached by the jury was racially charged.

What fewer people are aware of is that Bells lawyer did not call any witnesses in his defense. Also, following the trial, Bells new defense attorneys, Louis Scott and Carol Powell-Lexing, demanded a new trial as juvenile Bell had been tried as an adult. A request to lower Bells $90,000 bond was denied due to Bells long-standing juvenile record.

Both sides have their points. On the all-white jury was a high school friend of Barkers father. Yet, though one could not call the incident a simple schoolyard fight, Barker was able to attend a social function later the same night he was assaulted.

The most notable thing about the Jena 6 incident though, is that it was all spurred by racism. From the white tree occurrence until the assault, the whole situation has the feel of the civil rights movement from decades ago. The Jena 6 have shown us that although we might feel as if the days of segregation and racism are behind us, we still have a lot further to go.