Thousands of protesters marched through Jena, Louisiana, on Sept. 20, outraged over what they considered excessive and unjust criminal charges—conspiracy and attempted murder—brought against six African-American teenagers who allegedly beat a white student. The incident occurred last December after a series of racially charged confrontations prompted by a group of white students hanging nooses in the Jena High School courtyard. More than 20,000 people converged on the small town, with thousands more holding local protests around the nation. The case’s growing visibility sparked outrage at what many see as a two-tier justice system in the U.S.
“If you’re black, they want to lock you up and throw away the keys. If you’re white, you get a slap on the wrist and get to go home with your parents,” Tony Brown, a Louisiana radio host, told USA Today.
Mychal Bell, one of the six, spent 10 months in jail on the original adult charges. Now the case will proceed in juvenile court. “We have a long fight ahead of us, and we’ll keep fighting until justice prevails in Jena,” said Tina Jones, mother of one of the six.