Thursday, September 20, 2007
Marchers seek out infamous tree
Correspondent Susan Roesgen and I are here at Jena High School. Yesterday Al Sharpton called it the scene of the crime.

Last August, some black students here sat under a tree that for years was reputedly a gathering point for white students. The next day nooses hung from the branches. White students said it was a prank, but to black students the implied message seemed clear.

This morning when we arrived, there were only a few state police officers on hand. Very few people were expecting this to be a rallying point. There are no porta potties here, there's no water, and there is no food.

Nonetheless, marchers started streaming over the hill towards us around 10 a.m. local time and they just kept coming by the thousands. The few police officers were no match for the crowd when they decided to head onto school property toward the imfamous tree.

The tree was cut down before the start of school and the stump was removed, but marchers are flocking to the spot where it once stood. They're touching the dirt, feeling for the roots. It is for many the reason they came to Jena. People are asking for us for a leaf and one guy is holding what he claims to be a root.

-- By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 12:44 PM ET
  36 Comments
Why do "reverends" Sharpton and Jackson only concern themselves with justice when it's an issue for blacks? If a person of another race is wronged by the justice system, they do not step forward. Isn't that racist to favor one racial group?
Posted By Cary - Lowell, IN : 1:03 PM ET
OMG is this what the entire show will be about tonight?
Posted By Anonymous : 1:11 PM ET
I lived through the 60s and I thought we were over this kind of narrow-minded thinking and ignorance; but I guess it will be with us as long as people continue to look at others in terms of their race.
Posted By Raine - Detroit, MI : 1:14 PM ET
We have become like a police state and those with power aren't held responsible for their own actions, while the rest of the population is beholden to the "rules " set up by those with the power.
Posted By Hilary G., Iowa City, Iowa : 1:19 PM ET
I have lived in Lousiana my whole life (except for five years in North Central Mississippi) and quite honestly, people should have never stopped marching and demanding equality down here. There is a racial double standard that exists sometimes blatantly and sometimes so quietly you barely know it exists. I pray that justice is served for all parties in this case. I pray we can one day see beyond skin color and base a person's worth on something beyond race. I hope today's rallies spring forth dialogue and education throughout the country, not just in Jena or Louisiana. It's poetic justice I think that the rally to call to an end to racism starts in the same state that so blatantly showed us after Hurricane Katrina that we still live in two very different Americas and shouldn't. The Archbishop of Canterbury is in New Orleans right now attempting to heal divisions in the Anglican Church and witness New Orleans firsthand. I don't think it a coincidence that the Jena rallies and Archbishop's visit happened on the same day. Maybe it's just time for healing to begin in this state.
Posted By Tammy C., Berwick, LA : 1:26 PM ET
No matter how many rallies we hold, many of us will never know the day-to-day trauma and the pain of institutionalized racism that is always there. It exists for some in a vague way, but for others it's a nightmare.
Posted By Doug W., Seattle, Washington : 1:27 PM ET
I find it ridiculous that in this day and age people still have racist thoughts! It seems evolution skipped a few generations!

But I find it stupid that people are digging up roots also!! Yeah what was done to those boys was deffinately wrong! And I hope that they are tried as juveniles but they should not get off scott free!! They did beat up someone!! They do need to be taught that there are consequences to their actions! And this rally or having Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or anybody else on their side shouldn't change that! They committed a crime now they must do the right time!

If they get off scott free what message is that sending!?

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Cindy : 1:30 PM ET
Wouldn't it be commendable for the falsely accused Duke lacrosse players to step out on behalf of the Jena Six, to promote equal rights for all?
Posted By lisa b., los angeles, ca. : 1:32 PM ET
It is a shame that nooses were hung in the tree at the Juna school. I wonder what would have happened if a white student went to an all black college and tried to sit among its students or they tried to enroll in an all black college?? Is this legal for there to be all black colleges and not all white?? Are we going in reverse?? I think that Ophray, Al Sharpten and Jesse Jackson should go into the housing properties to see their youth on Housing living off the government with no interest for an education. They cheat the government and we pay for the drug dealers who live with their girlfriends who are on housing.

If it had been 6 white students who beat a black student they would have been charged with a Hate crime.

Also, isn't New Orleans 85% black and 15% white???
Posted By Anonymous : 1:34 PM ET
I applaud the marchers and admire them for their courage. Clearly, education is needed, and in some cases as we've seen in Jena, direly needed, that all human beings regardless of race, color, gender, and age have a right to be treated with dignity and respect, and that the Golden Rule applies to everyone. This education starts with kids.

For those who still think that the nooses were a prank, all I can say is that until you've experienced it yourself, you will not understand how it feels to be hated for no reason other than the color of your skin.

Peace to all,
Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, Washington : 1:35 PM ET
This kind of thing is going on all over, not this extreme, but it's there. Of course, nobody outside of the South has any racist thoughts, much less actions- there's just interracial hugs and hand pounds north of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Rockies.
Posted By Helen Moehler, New Orleans, La. : 1:36 PM ET
Eric, This is an important story. It is common knowledge there is a two tiered justice system in this country. One is for the rich and one is for the poor. So much of black America is poor so they have to rely on uninterested attorneys.
I live in a 99% white community and our school policy is, fighting gets you a three day suspension, not attempted murder charge.
I applaud CNN for shining the light on this civil rights issue as well as the injustice of the justice system.
I certainly have compassion for the victim but not enough to send 6 kids to prison for 20 years.
I also think it would be a good idea to keep plugging away at the power of prosecutors, in this country, to railroad the poor. Read John Grishom's, The Innocent Man, and you will see what I mean about injustice to the poor.
Posted By Judy Stage/Brooklyn MI : 1:38 PM ET
Rev, Jackson and Al Sharpton has spoken out for the wrongs of others like Latinos. I feel that if the issue behind the noose was taken care and not looked at as a joke this would not have gotten this far. Why is it always a joke when it happens to blscks. Has everyone forgotten about how they hung blacks and still without a noose. Everyone wants justice and for the young men who hung the noose and the man with the shot gun to be placed on trial also.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:39 PM ET
It's very interesting that of all the commnts and interviews made by the white residents of Jena, LA, the majority of comments by these residents are blaming "outsiders" for the negative image of their town portrayed by news media. If the town is 85% white and there are no racial divides as they claim, why did the majority stand silently by when Mychal Bell was arrested, charged for murder and also held without bail, and incidentally still in jail as we speak today. They still do not undertsand the pain and degradation that black people suffer on a daily basis when it comes to "equal opportunity under the law". Where is this so called love and understanding that they, the Jena residents, profess to have towards "all people"? Where is their sense of moral outrage? Why are they not out there protesting and speaking on Mychal Bell's behalf?
Posted By Ricardo Corley : 1:43 PM ET
I would like to address the 1st 2 comments: Apparently we will need "reverends" Sharpton and Jackson until we are all treated equal in the United States. I feel unless you are an african american you will never understand that true racism is still real and alive. Most people want to believe that it is over but please...there were more whites protesting against Michael Vick with the dog situation than there are supporting this march and until the black race is better respected than animals we will alway have this problem.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:48 PM ET
Now why doesn't the black community react this way to their own black on black violence? Where are they, Sharpton and Jesse Jackson regarding those 4 teens that were lined up and shot execution style in a playground back East? Quit blaming others and look at yourselves for your own violence and subsequent incarcerations.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:55 PM ET
At least 3 months went by from the noose incident until the Jena 6 attacked 1 white student .Thats hardly fair odds,they wanted to hurt the victim really bad,Does it tell you something that none of Mr. Bell's "friends" would arrange bail for him.
Posted By Philon Cox : 2:04 PM ET
I can not help but feel sorry for this victim. Especially when I hear how he was knocked out but was able to return to school the next day. As if that makes it ok for Six on one. Racism is wrong in any state by any race. My son moved to Seattle a couple of years ago. He said that one of the things that surprised him most about Seattle was how racist people are. That statement from a white AL boy.
Posted By carolyn a/sheffield,al : 2:07 PM ET
If this had been six caucasian students in Gena Louisiana, The african American boys would still be charged. Equality for All... I don't care who you are, Right is Right, Wrong is Wrong. Certain states in this Country still abide by 1960...Look at the News no one is covering this except for CNN.. but You see OJ alll over the news...Who Cares....You see Michael Vick.....Who Cares...Who Cares about the Beckham's or Britney Spears. This Country really needs to find out what's real and What's important when broadcasting the news..
Orange, New Jersey
Posted By Anonymous : 2:18 PM ET
Why cut down the tree? What did the tree do? I understand that this is a touchy subject, but I think there is a huge overreaction by all parties here. The nooses were WRONG. The black students beating up the white student were WRONG, and the charges of attempted murder is WRONG. Then you have Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson getting involved, the two most outspoken racists in America. Any time they are involved you can almost guarantee that they are WRONG.

There are still problems with race relations in America, but the double-standard needs to stop on all sides. You can't give someone preferential treatment because of the color of their skin, but that's exactly what affirmative action does. AA was probably necessary in the past, but the majority (not all) of Americans can see past skin color and understand that the color of skin does not determine character. In the past, racism was more directed from whites towards other races. I think that AA has now made most races think they are superior. Why can't we be proud of what we are and how God made us, instead of trying to be better than everyone else?
Posted By Nestor, Austin, TX : 2:22 PM ET
When I see stories like this, I'm reminded that education is needed, and in some cases, direly needed as we've seen in Jena, that all human beings, no matter who you are or where you came from, have an inalienable right to be treated with dignity and respect, and that the Golden Rule applies to everyone. This education starts with kids.

For those who still think that the nooses were a prank, all I can say is that until you've experienced it yourself, you will not understand how it feels to be hated for no reason other than the color of your skin.

Peace to all,
Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, Washington : 2:24 PM ET
I definitely think the 3 boys who hung the noose should be charged with a hate crime. To me it's the same as burning a cross. The 6 boys who beat the white student should be charged with some type of assault. I think Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton are showing the world they condone violence. I have not heard them once say anything against the beating or ask how the boy is doing.
Posted By Lisa Loggins : 2:34 PM ET
Hanging nooses in a tree is deplorable but it is an expression of personal feelings, that is, speech. In this country we are supposed to be able to have free speech. Beating a person unconscious is a crime and should be punished. I believe the juvenile attackers in this case should be tried as juveniles and that the punishment should fit the crime but they should be punished. This was not just a schoolyard fight. One on one or six on six might constitute a schoolyard fight, but six guys jumping one lone person does not. It does not help the black cause when black people jump to the defense of black criminals and ignore the justice due white individuals. Think the Duke Lacrosse case and OJ.
Posted By Anonymous : 2:35 PM ET
I think that black students and white students should get alone with each other they should be treated as equal.

Now days people needs to treat other people as they wanted to be treated. This day of age people needs each other instead of being racial.


Jennifer, Anderson, South Carolina.
Posted By bluediamond (Jennifer) : 2:37 PM ET
What has taken place in Jena is something that shold have taken place long before now. Enough is enough! Yes this country has come a long way from the days of 50' and 60's when you could through the brick and not hind the hand. Yes policies have been written, special days have been designated, the front of the buses are now an option, freedom of speech is a priviledge. But in this country we still have very long way to go. As long as injustice exist, so will these marches. If we continue to close our eyes and pretend like racesims does not exist the problems of this country and throughout this world will continue to exist. Enough is enough!
Posted By Anonymous : 2:42 PM ET
This is a great story and I'm glad you're covering and sending reporters there. But- a whole hour? Did you completely forget about Dan Rather and his $70K lawsuit with CBS? What about the war? Afghanistan? The possible hurricane forming off the west coast of Florida? The McCanns? Anderson read comments off this blog regarding that subject but you never mentioned a word about the tragedy at all on the show - very confusing.

Do you guys have ADD or just a short attention span! My 89 year old Gramma can only handle one subject at once, so I guess anything is possible.

Thank goodness for no entire hour devoted to OJ, but then it's not 10pm yet either!
Posted By Monique, Austin, TX : 2:47 PM ET
This is a sad day for our country. It is sad that any child needs to seek permission to sit under a tree. It is sad that any child uses a symbol of hate and thinks it's a prank. It is sad that when use lethal weapons (shot guns) to threaten others, they are not prosecuted appropriately. It is sad that when children lure others to an event (party) only to gang up on them. It is sad when the certain District Attorneys can dole out their own form of justice.

And most of all, the only time we are truly equal is when we bleed. Then we're all the same color.
Posted By Jan from Wood Dale, IL : 3:12 PM ET
I am glad that they are spending more than five minutes on this story. For african americans this hits close to home. Plus I am sick of OJ. This is a real story and it should take over the air waves
Posted By Mrs Z : 3:30 PM ET
It is truly sad that people are still racially influenced, however there is no way that anyone can justify an attack by six individuals on one individual no matter what color they may be. Violence begets violence and only serves to make matters worse. Justice must be color blind and dictated by the facts and not by race or social stature.
Posted By Jeff Foster : 3:31 PM ET
Monique in Texas: You must not be african american because if you were then you would want this to get media attention. Black or white you should want this problem handled. Maybe then this town will do what it should have done a long time age: Unite as one and teach these kids to not hate!! Hanging anything from a tree is not funny and those kids should have been properly punished. If they were maybe just maybe this would have not happened. I wonder if these racial comments did not come from home?
Posted By Mrs ZS : 3:39 PM ET
THANK-YOU CNN for covering this story! I am not condoning violence but I do believe in letting the punishment fit the CRIME. Equal Justice for equal people. Unfortunately the justice system is not fair and it is mainly comprised of PEOPLE and people make mistakes. In this situation if the DA had just charged the Jena 6 with the correct charges for thier crimes this would not have had to take place. I know that it is hard for people to understand and believe but our justice system needs alot of work. AND Crime is Crime if you are black,white, or purple.
Posted By Anonymous : 3:39 PM ET
Everyone who is responding should take a look at the full story on youtube. Search for the jena six for the video by collateral news. A group of white students did beat up one black student. A white man pulled a gun on three black students. When the black students took the gun from the man, they were arrested for theft. The white man who pulled the gun was not charged with any crime. The white students that beat up the sole black student were not charged nor arrested for their actions. The district attorney claims that he has never heard of any of this since the incompetent public defender did not bring up any of this information during the trial. Does it seem like justice now?
Posted By Alicia L in St Louis, MO : 3:58 PM ET
I,ve always heard that history repeats it self, and this is evidence to that fact.Watching the interviews of the white Jena residents brought to mind the old news coverage of Mississippi circa 50's-60's complaining of outside agitators interrupting the day to day life in their community. I am appalled that the school board and the administration at the school let this get so out of hand.If the situation with the tree was handeled BEFORE the nooses even went up we would'nt be dealing with the events that followed.How could the staff be so ignorant to the racial divide in the school.
Posted By Kanika,New Orleans,La. : 4:04 PM ET
Some of you just don't understand. Rev. Jackson and Sharpton are protesting because of the sentencing Mychael received, he should not have been tried as an adult in the first place, yes he was wrong for fighting, but if the school had suspended the kids that tied the noose on the tree it may not have gotten this big. So you may say they were suspended, but that was overtuned by the school board, that is not right. And wasn't the victim one of the students that tied the noose on the tree (YES) So this is the reason for the march and I support this fully, and this is coming from a white woman from Louisiana.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:11 PM ET
Some of you just don't understand. Rev. Jackson and Sharpton are protesting because of the sentencing Mychael received, he should not have been tried as an adult in the first place, yes he was wrong for fighting, but if the school had suspended the kids that tied the noose on the tree it may not have gotten this big. So you may say they were suspended, but that was overtuned by the school board, that is not right. And wasn't the victim one of the students that tied the noose on the tree (YES) So this is the reason for the march and I support this fully, and this is coming from a white woman from Louisiana.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:11 PM ET
Everyone is focusing on Mychal Bell being tried for attempted murder and as an adult. I am glad to see the legal system struck down the conviction and ruled that he should have been tried a juvenile. I just wonder though, how many times this kid has to be tried as a juvenile. He already has four (4) convictions in juvenile court, and was out on probation for battery when the fight took place.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:27 PM ET
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