Mychal Bell freed on bail

By Monica Moorehead
Published Sep 27, 2007 11:44 PM

Mychal Bell, one of the Jena 6, was freed on $45,000 bail Sept. 27, a week after the massive demonstration of tens of thousands in Jena, La., and across the U.S. This was a victory won only by the mass protest, but it is not complete. The district attorney says he will retry Bell as a juvenile.

Sept. 21—The day after tens of thousands of people, mostly African Americans, marched and rallied Sept. 20 in Jena, La., to demand justice for six Black teenagers known as the Jena 6, Mychal Bell, the only one of the six who is incarcerated, was refused bail. That bail had originally been set for $90,000.

Along with Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw and Jesse Ray Beard were originally charged with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy in the beating of a white student, Justin Barker, last Dec. 4. Barker was able to attend a school function the same day after being released from the hospital.

Three months before the arrests, racist students had hung three nooses from a “white students only” tree that Black students defiantly sat under at Jena High School. The Black students had asked permission from the school administration to sit under the tree.

Charges for four of the Jena Six have since been reduced to battery as they await trial. If convicted, these youths could receive up to 22 years in prison. One of them has been allowed to attend school while the other four remain expelled.

Three white teens who hung the nooses were suspended from school but were not prosecuted. According to the law, the nooses were a “prank.”

When one of the Jena Six attended a mostly white party soon after the Dec. 4 incident, he was physically attacked. As of now, no one has been arrested for this racist assault.

On the other hand, Bell has been incarcerated for the past nine months. He was convicted of attempted murder charges and remained so until the week before the Sept. 20 protest, when a state appeals court overturned the conviction. The ruling stated that Bell could not be tried as an adult. Bell has turned 17 since his arrest.

On Sept. 21, Bell’s parents, Melissa Bell and Marcus Jones, other family members and supporters attended his bail hearing in a Baton Rouge court. His parents brought fresh clothes for him to change into in anticipation of his release. It was not to be.

The same judge who presided over Bell’s trial as an adult stated that Bell was not to be released until prosecutors decide to appeal the state ruling. Bell’s parents left the courtroom stunned and in tears.

Prosecutors could possibly institute new charges against Bell.

Bell’s parents along with the Rev. Al Sharpton will be meeting with U.S. Rep. John Conyers in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 25 to seek Senate Judicial Committee hearings on the Jena Six case.
After the massive Jena Six rally in Jena, a Ku Klux Klan youth was spotted by Black protesters driving a pick-up truck with two nooses hanging from it in the nearby town of Alexandria. Also, a neo-Nazi group has made death threats against the Six on its Web site and have actually published the addresses of some of the youths.

Larry Holmes, a leader of the Troops Out Now Coalition, which is organizing a week-long encampment Sept. 22-28 at the U.S. Capitol to demand an end to war funding told WW: “The case of the Jena Six is much more than the racist persecution of six Black youth in the Deep South. This case and countless similar but lesser known cases personify the widespread epidemic of criminalization and scapegoating of Black people, especially young men, by the government from the East Coast to the West Coast and in between.”

Holmes went on to say: “The demonstrations in Jena and throughout the country on Sept. 20 were very significant, especially for the truly massive outpouring by the Black community. What was disappointing was the small turnout by whites who should have been in Jena also in huge numbers alongside their African-American sisters and brothers. This type of multinational unity would have shaken the foundation of the racist status quo. There has be a concrete commitment especially on the part of whites to show anti-racist solidarity with Black people, immigrants and other people of color who are on front lines when it comes to resisting repression. This is a clarion call to the entire movement to make this a top priority no matter what kinds of struggles you may be involved in.”

Sources for this article include National Action Network Web site.

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Hooman Hedayati

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