Blogger News Network has this summary of events:
In Jena, Louisiana, a black student challenged the de facto segregation of his high school by asking permission to sit under the “white tree.” School officials told him to sit where he liked. The next day three nooses hung from the tree, which triggered an impromptu protest by the black students of Jena High. LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, flanked by the police, informed the black students at an assembly later that day that he could end their lives “with the stroke of a pen.” Racial tensions grew, the school’s academic wing was burned, and Robert Bailey, a black student, was attacked by a group of whites at a party. One person was charged with a misdemeanor for that beating. The next day Bailey and two friends were threatened with a shotgun at a convenience store by a white man who had been present at the beating. They wrestled the gun away from him and ran to report the incident to the police, who charged them with robbery of the shotgun. Finally at school two days later, a group of white students, including the noose hangers, taunted Bailey and other students, calling them “niggers.” A white student was beaten by a group of black students, taken to the hospital and released within three hours. He attended a school function that night. Six black students were charged with second degree attempted murder for the fight. The first to be tried was Mychal Bell, whose public defender put on no case, called no witnesses, and permitted a friend of the DA, the mother of a prosecution witness, and a good friend of the victim’s mother, to be empaneled on the six person jury. Bell was quickly found guilty.
Since Bell’s conviction, a new team of lawyers has taken over this case and is seeking an appeal. His sentencing date was changed from July 31 to September 20. This teenager faces up to 22 years in prison. The five remaining members of the Jena Six have bail amounts ranging from $70,000 to $138,000. Thus far, only some of the six have managed to post bail since being arrested this past December.
Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Jena on Tuesday to protest the conviction and the uneven distribution of justice between blacks and whites in this small southern town and 43,000 signatures, emails and letters calling for equal justice for the group known as the Jena Six were presented to the district attorney in LaSalle Parish, Louisiana.
And recently the shade tree that set off this whole series of events was chopped down. There seems to be no small amount of wishful thinking in Jena that removal of the tree will remove the racial tensions that have plagued the community. According to Shreveport Times:
"A clean slate," LaSalle Parish School Board member Billy Fowler said of why the tree was cut down in the past few weeks. "There's nothing positive about that old tree. It's all negative. And I'm serving on the new School Board, and we're wanting to start fresh on some things."
Schools Superintendent Roy Breithaupt authorized the tree to be cut down, Fowler said. Breithaupt on Monday refused to comment about the tree while discussing plans for rebuilding the school after an arson fire destroyed one the school's buildings.
Fowler said the tree eventually would have been cut down for construction purposes, but that he also is hopeful its removal will help heal old wounds.
"School's about to start," he said. "We don't want the blacks coming back up there looking at the tree knowing what happened, or the whites. We just want to start fresh."
The school's main academic building was destroyed in November in a fire ruled to be arson. No connection has been made between the fire, the nooses or other issues that have plagued Jena High students in the past year. No suspects have been named in connection with the fire.
****…the disappearance of the tree — the same tree Caseptla Bailey has said conjures images of the Ku Klux Klan and lynchings of the past — won't change anything, she said. Bailey is the mother of Robert Bailey Jr., one of the six black teens — coined the Jena Six" — who were charged in connection with a December attack on a white student at the school.
"Cutting down that beautiful tree won't solve the problem at hand," she said. "It still happened."