Oklahomans Show Solidarity With Jena 6 At Capitol

Thursday, September 20th 2007, 3:32 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahomans, young and old, rallied at the Capitol Thursday in support of six black teenagers arrested in Louisiana in the beating of a white classmate. They cheered speakers who condemned these arrests as a symptom of unequal justice that is common in Oklahoma and across the country.

``This is certainly a wake-up call for most of us black people,'' the Reverend John A. Reed, longtime civil rights leader, told the mostly black audience.

Many of the demonstrators carried handmade signs and wore black T-shirts urging authorities in Jena, Louisiana, to “Free the Jena 6.”

``The incident in Jena is nothing unusual. That incident is nothing new to us as African-American people,'' Reed said.

The rally coincided with a demonstration by thousands in the small Louisiana town.

Six black teens were initially charged with attempted murder after a local prosecutor in Jena declined to prosecute three white teens who hung nooses in a tree on their high school grounds.

``It is time for us to express our outrage that such a blatant injustice should happen,'' said Roosevelt Milton, Oklahoma City NCAAP president.

Kiara Andrews, 15, said the trouble in Jena could have been stopped if teachers and other school officials were more aware of what students were saying and doing.

Andrews, who attends Carl Albert High School in the Oklahoma City suburb of Midwest City, said it was the first time she had taken part in such a demonstration.

``It's empowering and let's me know I can help. I'm just glad people are starting to stand up for what is right,'' she said.

Representative Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, said the Jena incident is symbolic of regression in civil rights. ``We don't hang people any more,'' she said.

Pittman deplored the high percentage of black males who wind up in prison. ``That's by design; that's no accident,'' she said.

Others urged blacks to register to vote and work to change policies in such areas as civil justice and health care.

``Black folks, for God's sake, get involved,'' said Senator Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City.

``We as African-Americans built this nation and we have every right to enjoy its benefits,'' said Senator Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa.

Watch the video: Racial Concerns Prompt Oklahoma Protests