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To: Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice
We respectfully request that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice review events surrounding the prosecution of six Black students in Jena, Louisiana, to determine whether the civil rights of Jenaresidents have been violated.
In a May 20, 2007 Chicago Tribune article titled "Racial Demons Rear Heads," Howard Witt reported that the six students faced prosecution for charges including second degree attempted murder -- and possible prison sentences of up to 100 years -- for allegedly participating in an unarmed school brawl that resulted in no serious injuries. The alleged brawl followed months of racial tension after hangman's nooses were hung from a tree at the students' school.
From the same Chicago Tribune article:
“There’s been obvious racial discrimination in this case,” said Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who described Jena as a “racial powder keg” primed to ignite. “It appears the black students were singled out and targeted in this case for some unusually harsh treatment.”
The prosecution of these young men represents a gross miscarriage of justice, punishing Black students for opposing segregation of their schools while ignoring the threatening and provocative acts of those engaging in segregation.
We respectfully request that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice launch a full investigation into events in Jena, Louisiana, beginning with the noose incident of August 31, 2006, and culminating in the alleged fight of December 4, 2006 to determine whether the civil rights of Jena residents have been violated.
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