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Solidarity with Jena 6 spans the U.S.
Solidarity with Jena 6 spans the U.S.
Published Sep 27, 2007 11:38 PM
The protest demanding justice for the Jena 6 extended far beyond the tens of thousands of people who were able to make the journey to Louisiana.
In a movement comparable to the recent upsurge in the immigrant rights struggle in its grassroots nature,
demonstrations took place in cities large and small, from coast to coast. This outpouring brings hope that a stronger, more militant rebirth of a new civil rights movement is on the horizon.
Activists and Students for African People joined forces in solidarity with the Jena 6. Jasimen Tyler of United Liberation Army—an organization of anti-capitalist, pro-immigrant Black youth—stressed the importance of this case to the lives of all Black people.
The event grew to hundreds with militant chants and speeches reaffirming the right of Black people to self-determination and defense against all racists, specifically the police.
The Black community was not alone. William Torres, a leading organizer from the March 25th Coalition for Immigrant Rights, spoke of this struggle as being one with the immigrant rights movement, stating, "We are all one people."
Namibia Donadio, a Latina organizer and member of the Troops Out Now Coalition, reminded everyone of people's power when they are united and understand their common enemy as the same grouping that forces them to go to war against Iraq.
TONC member Bev Tang of BAYAN-USA pledged the support and solidarity of the Filipino community in this struggle for justice. Introducing Tang, the emcee exclaimed, "We've got the Filipinos in the house, y'all!" to rousing applause.
Earlier, Black Surfers closed down half of Sunset Boulevard for two hours.
Ariel Hall, 15 years old, cut classes to attend one of two rallies that drew 600 people, dressed in black. Many wore free T-shirts from Power 106.9-FM radio inscribed "Free the Jena 6."
Tenth-grader Hall said: "I'm proud to be part of something. I'm shocked to see that racism isn't over. It's still alive."
Preston Fagan, president of the Syracuse- Onondaga NAACP chapter, said: "This issue is happening in Syracuse. Jena just woke us up." He and other speakers compared the Jena 6 case to the federal RICO law used to crack down on city youth resulting in the prosecution of 56 young African Americans.
Minister Mark Muhammad of the Nation of Islam told the crowd: "Young men are getting railroaded. There's a whole gang of them not guilty of anything. ... If they are sitting on the block and maybe sold some drugs once, they shouldn't be doing 15 to 20 years in jail and getting arrested by association."
About 50 students at Cornell University staged a rally sponsored by the Black sorority Sigma Gamma Rho and Black fraternity Iota Phi Theta.
"The goal was to get exposure for the issue. ... We can't ignore oppression; we face it every day," said event organizer Christopher Whylie.
More than 2,500 people gathered for a rally that lasted six hours outside the Russell Senate Office Building. Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT rights said: "What a wonderful scene to see and hear people—Black, white, gay, straight—all standing together chanting, 'Enough is enough!' Injustice against one of us is a cold, hard reminder that injustice in America still exists for a lot of us!"
Later thousands packed an auditorium at Howard University where thunderous applause broke out when a speaker said: "We're here to identify our enemy. And that enemy is injustice!"
Several thousand young people, predominantly Black, joined in two days of solidarity rallies. Seven hundred Temple University students staged a walkout to attend a rally that had been organized by the Black Student Union using Facebook, an online social-networking tool.
Organizer Maj Toure said, "It calls to mind images of lunch-counter sit-ins in the Jim Crow South, peace rallies during the Vietnam era, and anti-South African apartheid protests."
David Fattah, co-founder of the House of Umoja, said: "They have awakened a sleeping giant. That fire from the civil-rights movement has finally caught up with them." He mentioned Emmett Till. The lynching of Till, a Black teen killed by a white mob in 1955, was an important spark for the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that began three months after his killing. "It's that kind of anger they're waking up to," Fattah concluded.
More than 1,000 people joined an 8 p.m. protest that surrounded City Hall and led to a spontaneous march through Center City that caught police and rally organizers off guard. Outrage over the Jena 6 brought many first-time protesters out.
A Black motorcycle club also led a procession to the sports complex named for Wachovia Bank because its founders profited off the slave trade.
Speaker Pam Africa, from International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, linked the protest around the Jena 6 to the growing movement against injustice and war. She got a positive response from those gathered.
The morning air rang with militant chants as more than 500 people marched from an inner-city boys' school to Cleveland State University for a rally organized by the Black Studies Program.
The song "Wake up, everybody" became the chant, "Wake up, America!" repeated with building intensity. "No justice, no peace!" morphed to "No peace! No peace!"
The coalition of organizations calling the event included the NAACP, Nation of Islam, New Black Panther Party, Black on Black Crime, Inc., Survivors/Victims of Tragedy, Inc., New Alliance of Black Nationalists, Antioch Baptist Church, and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.
At least 100 people gathered in solidarity with the national rally for the Jena 6 in Denver's historic Black neighborhood of Five Points. Speakers, poets and musicians called for support for the Jena 6.
One musician had composed a special blues song for the Jena 6. The chorus was, "Never did I hear of such a thing as a white folks' tree." Another group of three poets called for Black and Brown unity in times of racial injustice.
At an open speak-out at George Mason University the podium was placed under the shade of a tree. First-year student Marty Sullivan said: "The civil-rights movement didn't begin in the 60s and didn't end in the 60s. It began when the first Black slave was brought to America ... and it's not going to end anytime soon."
A diverse group of students and officials spoke to a growing audience in front of the Student Union. School faculty supported the rally, saying they were proud of GMU students for becoming active.
Concluded senior Lauren Williams: "Racism ends today! Not tomorrow!"
The following writers contributed to this round-up: John Parker, Los Angeles; Sharon Black, Baltimore; Sharon Danann, Cleveland; Melissa Kleinman, Denver; and Betsey Piette, Philadelphia.
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