Last week's protest in Jena marks a turning point in the civil rights movement and black civic engagement. Black talk radio, bloggers and websites mobilized tens of thousands of African Americans to go to a small town in Louisiana and demand justice for the Jena 6.
Though the charges against Mychal Bell have been thrown out, he remains locked up.
At Saturday's National Action Network rally, Michael Hardy, general counsel of NAN, observed:
If you're following the law, Mychal Bell would be free right now. He's serving time for a crime that the court said he shouldn't have been tried for in the first place.
So the Rev. Al Sharpton will keep the pressure on. Sharpton and Mychal's parents, Marcus Jones and Melissa Bell, will travel to Washington, DC this week to meet with Rep. John Conyers Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Their goal: haul LaSalle Parish district attorney Reed Walters before the committee to explain his double standard of criminal prosecution.
During the Q&A at Sharpton's weekly rally, I asked NAN executive director Charlie King what's next. King said:
We made history in Jena and will continue to do so. This is just the beginning, not the end.
In addition to pushing for a congressional hearing, NAN wants an investigation to determine whether there has been prosecutorial misconduct. If so, Walters should be held accountable just like the district attorney in the Duke lacrosse rape case.
For more info, contact NAN's Criminal Justice Initiative at 212/690-3070.