The Perpetrator becomes the Prosecutor

Here’s the latest from Jena. Hours after a community meeting at Jena’s tiny Antioch Baptist Church ended two men from Monroe, Louisiana destroyed a sign in front of the church building. According to eyewitness reports, they also did a “wheelie” on the rain-sodden lawn before driving off. The meeting was attended by 150 people; approximately 60 of whom were from neighboring communities.

I have pasted some of the comments from the Alexandria Town Talk after this brief AP article. The comments are typical: white folks think the boys from Monroe were “stupid”. This is also the term many white Jena and Alexandria residents used to describe the hanging of nooses in the “white tree” at the Jena High School.

Black people see the destruction of the sign as intimidation–a hate crime.

The Jena story is rapidly capturing the American imagination. As of yet, the story hasn’t been featured on the national news, but a couple of weeks should take care of that. The major civil rights groups have yet to weigh in publicly–but behind the scenes the action in the reform community is frantic and unrelenting. This story is about to explode.

I don’t know John Sanderson and Jerry Bufkin, the young white men from Monroe who decided to mow down the church sign in Jena, but the true name of the perpetrators is Legion. The Jena story fascinates and horrifies because it uncovers the dynamics of New Jim Crow racism.

According to most white people in Central Louisiana, there is no association between the nooses hanging from the tree in the High School square and the assault at the school three months later. To hear their story, Justin Barker was the random victim of black thugs eager to beat up a defenseless white kid. In this telling, the incident is stripped of all context. The crime is considered horrifying precisely because it is arbitrary and senseless.

Black people (and a growing cadre of justice-loving white people) are beginning to grasp the broader picture.

People are learning that the LaSalle Parish School Superintendent, Roy Breithaupt, called the noose hanging a childish prank and recommended the mildest of consequences–three days of in-school suspension.

People are learning that black students responded to Mr. Breithaupt’s announcement by staging a spontaneous lunch hour protest in the school square. Black students, led by a group of male athlestes, physically occupied the tree–claiming it as their own. (Thus far, no one in Jena has denied that the tree from which the nooses dangled provided shade for white shoulders only).

People are learning that high school officials responded to this legitimate and honorable protest by calling an emergency assembly in the school auditorium. Every police officer in town was asked to appear in full uniform. District Attorney, Reed Walters, looking cross and distracted, addressed the students.

Imagine a school auditorium in which the white students (in accordance with tradition) sit on one side of the aisle while the black students sit on the other side. Imagine the District Attorney directing his full attention to the black side of the room. Imagine Reed Walters zeroing in on the black male athletes who sparked the lunch hour protest. Now you’ve got a feel for the atmosphere.

Now, imagine Reed Walters waving a pen in the air with a dramatic flourish. “I can be your best friend or your worst enemy,” he tells the black students. The protests at the school have got to stop, he insists, and if they don’t, “With a stroke of my pen I can make your lives disappear.”

I am not repeating hearsay–Mr. Walters admitted to issuing this threat in the course of a mid-July hearing in the LaSalle Parish courtroom. He was angry with the black student protesters, he explained, because they were making a big fuss over nothing. He wanted the white and black students to “work things out on their own” without wasting his valuable time.

People are beginning to understand that Superintendent Roy Breithaupt could have foreclosed on months of outrage and protest simply by calling the noose incident a serious hate crime. That’s all the man had to do. He couldn’t do it.

People are beginning to understand that District Attorney Reed Walters could have defused the tense situation Mr. Breithaupt had created if he had told the student assembly that hate crimes would not be tolerated in LaSalle Parish. Had Walters waved his pen at the white side of the auditorium and issued a warning to the racist element within the student population, nothing would have remained for the kids to “work out on their own.”

But that’s just the problem: Mr. Breithaupt and Mr. Walters didn’t see the noose incident as a hate crime. They didn’t see the hate behind the nooses because they couldn’t. As representatives of Jena’s power people, these men had to see the nooses as a silly prank; there was no no practical alternative.

People are beginning to understand that the official response to the noose hanging (symbolized by the public comments of Mssrs. Breithaupt and Walters) validated the color line the noose hangers were desperate to preserve.

People are beginning to understand that in the wake of Mr. Breithaupt’s “silly prank” comment and Mr. Walters’ “stroke of my pen” threat, the black male athletes who staged the protest under the “white tree” had two choices: they could surrender their pride and manhood by accepting a reassertion of the racial status quo; or they could continue their protest by other means.

Unfortunately, thanks to Mr. Breithaupt and Mr. Walters, all forms of legitimate protest had been taken off the table. If the white noose hangers and the black protesters were going to “work things out on their own” there was going to be trouble–and Breithaupt and Walters knew it.

People are beginning to realize the true significance of Mr. Walters’ threat. He was setting up a situation that was bound to end in racially-tinged violence. Sooner or later some white kid was going to take his lumps at the hands of black kids–and when that day arrived, Mr. Walters planned to be waiting at the courthouse, pen at the ready.

And so, a day after the Jena High School went up in flames, Robert Bailey was brutally attacked by a mob of white students (and young adults) as he entered a Friday night dance. Robert was kicked, punched and whacked with a beer bottle. This was precisely what Mr. Walters was looking for . . . only the violence flowed in the wrong direction.

No matter, everyone knew the assault on Robert Bailey would not go unanswered. Although teachers begged the administration to give the students a few days before returning to class, the administration called for the resumption of classes Monday morning. This decision guaranteed that the demons unleashed on Friday evening would still be dancing–a backlash was inevitable.

Eyewitness student accounts make it clear that the attack on Justin Barker was preceded by a heated encounter between white students taunting Robert Bailey for having had his “butt kicked” on Friday night and black student athletes who were powerless to respond . . . unless, that is, they wanted Mr. Walters to make good on his threat to make their lives disappear.

There is no sense debating the relative demerits of hanging nooses in a tree vs. punching and kicking a defenseless student. Both actions are deplorable. What has been missed in the noose-fight debate is the intimate association between the two events. If Mr. Breithaupt and Mr. Walters responded to the noose incident in a spirit of justice, fairness and simple common sense in early September, there would have been nothing to fight about in early December.

People are beginning to grasp the appalling irony of this case: the man who stripped black male athletes of their constitutional right to protest in September pulled out his pen in December and made their lives disappear. The perpetrator has become the prosecutor.

And now Mr. Walters is being asked to respond to the young men who mowed down the sign in front of Antioch Baptist Church. Since the perpetrators are white and the victims are black, the outcome is pre-ordained–a “silly prank” will spark a mild fine and life will go on.

But not for long. Nothing will ever be the same in Jena, Louisiana. The racial status quo will change. The white tree at the High School must be reconsecrated as a unity tree or it must be leveled. There is no middle ground.

Alan Bean

Friends of Justice

https://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com

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http://www.thetowntalk.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200770713005

2 men arrested for running over church sign in Jena

JENA, La. (AP) — Two men have been arrested after they ran over a church sign at a black church in this town simmering with racial tension after six teenagers were charged with beating a white classmate.John Sanderson, 21, of Columbia and Jerry Bufkin, 32, of West Monroe were charged Tuesday with criminal damage to property for running over the sign.

The two men ran over the sign just hours after the NAACP held a meeting at the Antioch Baptist Church to discuss the fate of the teenagers.

In this atmosphere of tension, Pastor B.L. Moran called the two men’s actions “a hate crime.”

At the end of June, one of the six teenagers was convicted of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. He had faced attempted murder charges, but those were reduced by a prosecutor.

The six blacks were arrested in the Dec. 4 beating of Justin Barker, 17.

The initial attempted murder charges drew widespread attention and protests that the charges were out of proportion to the crime.

Racial tensions in Jena — a town of 2,900 with about 350 black residents — were raised in September when high school students found three nooses hanging from a tree on campus. The nooses appeared after a black student sat under the tree, traditionally used by white students as a gathering spot.

In September, three white students were suspended for the noose incident, but no criminal charges were filed.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:25 am Post subject: 2 men arrested for running over church sign in Jena  
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welli
Joined: 08 Sep 2006
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Location: South Park

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:30 am Post subject:  
Good, They deserve whatever punishment that they get. All they did was pour salt on an open wound and made tensions worse.
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nclady
Joined: 30 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:34 am Post subject:  
Yep.. and I hope that they are made an example of by getting the strongest charge that will fly in court.
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Katupatree
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
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Location: Grant Parish, Louisiana

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:59 am Post subject:  
And if they could add stupidity as a crime, they should get time for that too.It doesn’t matter what color you are or what color the church people are. To run over a church sign is mean and spiteful. To run over that church sign at that time after all that’s been going on is hateful and they deserve whatever they get coming.

>^..^<

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maddogg
Joined: 29 Dec 2006
Posts: 324
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 7:25 am Post subject:  
What everyone has said is totally true. I agree. Maybe we can make stupidity a capital punishment crime? Laughing That would solve a lot of issues. Laughing Laughing
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scubadu
Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 196
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 7:31 am Post subject:  
What I find interesting is that these men are not from Jena…Seems like outsiders (of all colors) love to come in and make more trouble. I hope they are prosecuted to the fullest. How shameful!
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jll
Joined: 11 Apr 2007
Posts: 92
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 7:37 am Post subject:  
That was so stupid and childish…like things aren’t bad enough…they had to throw more gas on the already burning tension! And I agree maddog, if we could make stupidity a capital punishment crime,that would solve a lot of issues and make some of the city streets wiped clean.. Wink
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only me
Joined: 14 Oct 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:20 am Post subject:  
I hope these two guys get the max punishment for what they did. No sense what so ever in doing that!Maddog, maybe the stupidity crime could be called aggravated ignorance! Laughing

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Katupatree
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Posts: 425
Location: Grant Parish, Louisiana

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:35 am Post subject:  
only me . . I like that one Laughing
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nclady
Joined: 30 Aug 2006
Posts: 800
Location: Charlotte, NC

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 9:06 am Post subject:  
What are ya’ll trying to do.. purge the gene pool around here? LaughingI am afraid that I have my “stupid” days, too… but nothing to compare with this! I guess when you combine stupid with mean this is what you get!
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notadumbgirl
Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 71
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 4:51 pm Post subject:  
What kind of fool does a thing like that? Don’t they know they are messing with God’s house? Don’t they know that God doesn’t sleep, He sees all?
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BayouKB
Joined: 30 Jun 2007
Posts: 169
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:08 pm Post subject:  
Hey, hate crimes made a way into law – why not dumb crimes?
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jena6fan
Joined: 30 Jun 2007
Posts: 195
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:52 pm Post subject:  
whats the chance of a stranger finding that small church in jena?is that a coincidence? or did someone pay those guys to do that?i have doubts.i think i smell a rat.
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GregTh
Joined: 13 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:58 pm Post subject:  
It’s not hateful or stupidity. It’s RACISM, pure and simple. It’s prevalent in the south.Greg

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Katupatree
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Posts: 425
Location: Grant Parish, Louisiana

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 11:11 pm Post subject:  
Greg . . . it WAS hateful. It might have been racist too, but anyone that runs over a church sign is hateful. It doesn’t matter what color the driver of the vehicle is or what the predominant color of the church congregation is, it mean and hateful. We are ALL in agreement on that so far and racism doesn’t even need to brought into it, although we all know that it’s there too.jena6fan, the town of Jena just really isn’t that huge. I’m sure if someone wanted to find a church and cause some damage, it could be done. I don’t know how public the information was that the church was holding a special meeting, but I guess word got out. I don’t figure it’s that much of a coincidence either. I just hope they get what they deserve for doing such a hateful act.
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11 thoughts on “The Perpetrator becomes the Prosecutor

  1. WHY HASN’T ANYONE REPORTED THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO THE LOUISIANA BAR ASSOCIATION FOR HIS CONDUCT?

  2. I was deeply disturbed when I heard of the incident and trial that is happening in Jena. It just shows that racism is alive, well and breathing in the United States. I would like to know why wasn’t the NAACP or the ACLU called before the trial started? Why didn’t the parents think to contact any group when there children were charged? Why didn’t they contact Al Sharpton Action Network? And, why would Michael Bell parents allow their son to be represented in such a manner that allowed their son rights to be abused. I do not understand them. I understand that they might not have money for a decent lawyer, but in this day and age where they can get on the internet and create a blog, create a stir, contact the media and get nationwide attention….why didn’t they. This is their son!!!!! Why allow the justice system that allowed him to be charged in the first place to have someone from that organization represent him. They could have fired him mid-trial and request another lawyer…do something. But yet again african american people have such a take whatever, they say or do attitude instead of excersing their rights within the law and demand decent and fair representation.

  3. Racism is alive and well everywhere. I know it is still more open in some places than in others but you can believe it is present wherever you might live. The south has always been more open but you have to keep your hands in the hands of God in order to defeat it. For that mother I ask you to keep praying and I will keep praying for you, your family and the whole town of Jena. I heard about this on the Warren Ballentine and Al Sharpton’s radio broadcast and it is deploreable what is going on there. I live in Washington, DC and I know most of the young black men here are going to jail for whatever reason. The mother or parents might not be computer literate or might not have access to a computer and did not know anyone to call for help so don’t tell them they should have contacted someone for help sooner. Do what we can to help them now.

  4. This situation has been allowed to fester because of the contempt shown to people of color by the President of the United States. The behavior here in Jena was made possible by George Bush when by his behavior, which was to completly ignore the situation, he essentially said that the people in the state of Louisiana did not deserve any aid or assistance after Katrina, until he was forced, due to media attention, to pay attention to what was going on in New Orleans. His behavior signaled to many that disrespect of Black people could once again be a part of the American way. This president has got to go.

  5. It seems the system in this country is designed to send us 2 steps back for every step we take forward. It’s a revolving debt system.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of black teens that don’t have the education about our (black) history. Many teens have never even seen Roots. Although it is a dramatization it is important for them to see where we came from. This generation of teens have never had to struggle at all. Unfortunately while they are watching 50 Cent on BET they probably will never understand the seriousness of the Jena 6 case.

    Unfortunately the only way for this to get any real attention is for violence to errupt. I’m not saying it’s justified but the frustration of something so blatantly racist. We can protest and protest but nothing will get done. Respect does not exist so fear must be instilled until these racist ways are abolished.

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