The "Jena 6" are six African-American students at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana who are being held in connection with an assault on a white student at the school. That would be the end of the story, except the fight stemmed from on-going racial tension over a request by black students to enjoy the shade of a tree traditionally used as a gathering place for white students.
After being told by a vice principal at the school that the students could sit wherever they pleased, they did. The next day, three nooses were found hanging from said tree. Although the school's principal recommended that the white students responsible for hanging the nooses be expelled, the school superintendent and board overruled that recommendation and portrayed the nooses as a "silly prank." That led to several weeks of unrest that included one black student being assaulted by a group of whites at a party attended by whites, and black students being threatened by a former Jena student "pumping" a shot-gun.
The incident leading to the arrest of the "Jena 6" occurred on December 4, 2006, when a fight between a white student and a black student allegedly escalated into a beat-down of the white student by six black students. Charged were Robert Bailey, 17, Theo Shaw, 17, Carwin Jones, 18, Bryant Purvis, 17, Mychal Bell, 16 and a juvenile. Their bonds ranged from $70,000 to $138,000. They were charged with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit second degree murder, and face decades in jail.
Mychal Bell has already been tried by an all-white jury and convicted of second degree aggravated battery and conspiracy (the prosecutors reduced the charges on the first day of trial). Bell is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 4 and faces up to 22 years in prison.
Those of you who don't understand why this case puts a spotlight on the crisis in America's justice system, please note that the white victim allegedly taunted the black student who had been beaten by a white group of teens a few days earlier. Only one person was charged in that incident and that person was arrested on a misdemeanor.
Also, the white victim was badly bruised and suffered a black eye, but was treated at the hospital and released, and apparently was in good enough shape to attend a social event that evening.
This case is just beginning to get national exposure, but has been circulating on various blogs for months.