Local protesters head to Jena, Louisiana

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News 12 at 11, September 19, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Six high school students are at the center of a national civil rights protest. Tonight, tens of thousands of people are descending on a small town in Louisiana to rally support for the Jena 6.

Hundreds of protesters on their way from all across the CSRA. Some are college students, others, 72 year old grandparents; but they all are going with the same goal: to make a difference.

50 people from the care group House of Plenty are the latest caravan of protesters from Augusta heading west to Jena, Louisiana.

"It's not a white or black thing, it's a wrong or right thing," says protester Willie Myrick.

"We're going to make it count," adds Lawrence Freeman.

50 thousand civil rights protesters, including Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are expected to descend on the small town with a population of three thousand. They're protesting what they say is injustice against the now infamous Jena 6.

"Don't act like we coming to start trouble. We're coming to stop trouble," says civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

Trouble that started under an oak tree usually reserved for white students. Last September, some black students had lunch underneath it and nooses were hung the next day, but the white students involved only got in school suspension. The school superintendent calling it a prank.

A few months later, six black students were arrested after a school fight that injured white student Justin Barker. Their charge? Attempted murder. The lethal weapon? Tennis shoes.

"It's racist because the penalty simply does not fit the crime." says Paine College campus adviser Gloria Williams Way.

That's why 50 Paine College students and faculty also decided to make the trip to Jena.

"It's time for all of us to change the world and it's time for all of us to wake up as well," says senior Keeshundra Jett.

"I never experienced something like this in life and it could be life changing for me and for the world," adds 18-year-old student Marquis Porterfield.

Grandparent Margaret Armstrong is also making the trip. "We've been marching since i was 19 and I'm 72 now and the need is still there."

After joining hands in prayer they set off, joining others, to have their voices heard. "We are out here and we're concerned about what's going on as far as equality for all and it's very important for us to be a part of history in the making," adds student Tiffany Brooks.

Last week, the appellate court threw out Mychal Bell's conviction because he was 16 at the time of the crime, but tried as an adult. He was supposed to be sentenced tomorrow (September 20), but his case will now be turned over to the juvenile court. According to local newspaper reports, Bell is still in jail.

The other fuve students involved are still facing serious charges, but all of those five have posted bail and are now out of jail awaiting trial.

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