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‘We all live in Jena’
Mychal Bell released on bail, faces new trial
Actions demanding justice for Jena 6 continue

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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 38      October 15, 2007


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‘We all live in Jena’
Mychal Bell released on bail, faces new trial
Actions demanding justice for Jena 6 continue
(lead article)
Militant/Ben O’Shaughnessy
One hundred students marched in New York October 1, part of nationwide school walkouts.

HOUSTON—Mychal Bell, one of the Black high school students known as the Jena Six, was released on bail September 27—one week after tens of thousands rallied in Jena, Louisiana, to demand his freedom.

Bell was arrested last December, along with five other Black students from Jena High School, after a white student filed charges following a fight. The fight happened after months of harassment of African American students who were protesting racist practices at the school. Physical attacks against African American students went largely unpunished. After Black students held a sit-in under a schoolyard tree, racists hung nooses from the tree but received only brief school suspensions.

Although only 16 at the time, Bell was tried as an adult and convicted by an all white jury of aggravated assault. A state appeals court recently ruled that he should not have been tried in adult court. Reed Walters, the district attorney prosecuting the case, said he would appeal but abandoned that course shortly before Bell walked out on bail. If he is found guilty in juvenile court, Bell could be imprisoned until he turns 21.

Tens of thousands rallied in Jena and in solidarity actions across the country September 20 to demand justice for the Six.

“I am glad he is finally out of jail,” said Latasha Cooper, a Texas Southern University (TSU) journalism student. “But I don’t see why he should have to go to court again. Hasn’t he done enough time for them already?” Cooper, who went with busloads of fellow students to Jena on September 20, added that TSU students are organizing another campus protest.

On September 29, more than 100 protesters marched through the streets of Hartford, Connecticut, chanting, “Free the Jena Six!”

On October 1, students on more than 50 college and high school campuses across the country participated in the National Student Walkout—We All Live in Jena. It was called by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Sankofa Community Empowerment, the National Hip Hop Political Convention, and others.

“When I found out about the Jena Six, I saw this as an opportunity for a springboard to fight against institutional racism,” said Asher Callender, 19, who joined the walkout of more than 100 in New York City. A student at Bushwick Community High School, Callender is one of the Bushwick 32—a group of youth arrested in May by cops in Brooklyn, New York, for “unlawful assembly” and “disorderly conduct” while on their way to a friend’s funeral.

Ashley Robertson traveled to Jena September 20 from New Orleans’ Xavier University, which sent three buses and 13 cars. Some students from Xavier went back to Jena September 29-30 to see what they could do to help. “They keep saying in the papers that the Black students are at fault,” Robertson said. “But the school administration did nothing to address the discrimination. It has to be held responsible for helping to build up the tension over the months.”

Ben O’Shaughnessy contributed to this article from New York.
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