NATIONAL CLIPS: August 18

JENA, La.: NAACP steps up to secure justice for ‘Jena 6’

“This is an American outrage that demonstrates the continuing shame of racial division in our country,” said Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP’s national board of directors. “We urge everyone interested in fairness and equality to join us in making it one of the last.”

Bond announced the NAACP has sent a legal team, including Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, to LaSalle Parish to assist in the defense of six African American youth known as the Jena 6.

The six are charged with criminal offenses stemming from a series of racial incidents, including Black students sitting beneath a tree on school grounds that had been “whites only” and white students hanging nooses on the limbs of the tree.

An argument broke out and Mychal Bell, 16, was subsequently charged as an adult with aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. He was convicted by an all-white jury. The trial lasted two days. Bell’s public defender called no witnesses and did not challenge the racial composition of the jury.

The Jena High School principal called the noose incident a “prank” and took no action against the white students. The school recently cut down the tree.

Bell will be sentenced Sept. 20 and could face 22 years in prison. The NAACP legal team is preparing an appeal and will appear at the sentencing hearing.

Although one Jena 6 student remains unidentified, the four others who face criminal charges are Robert Bailey Jr., 17, Theo Shaw, 17, Carwin Jones, 18, and Bryant Purvis, 17. Three of the four had their bail set at over $100,000.

The NAACP is demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice monitor the trials of the students and that the federal Department of Education investigate allegations of discrimination at Jena High School. The civil rights group is circulating a petition online at www.naacp.org.



TUCSON, Ariz.: City remembers Hiroshima, urges nuke ban

While millions of Americans who work the morning crossword puzzle know the name of the plane, the Enola Gay, that dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare, the names of the estimated 70,000 civilian victims of the initial blast are largely unknown.

Responding to action by peace groups, including Veterans for Peace, Tucson’s mayor and City Council took action Aug. 6, the 62nd anniversary of the World War II atomic attack by the U.S. on Hiroshima, Japan, by unanimously passing a resolution honoring the lives lost at Hiroshima and in Nagasaki, the site of the second atomic bombing three days after the first. An estimated 74,000 civilians died in Nagasaki.

Noting that the Bush administration is spending billions for new nuclear weapons while no effective, safe facilities or technologies exist to address mounting radioactive waste, the resolution calls on Congress to pass HR 68, a nuclear disarmament plan.

“We believe U.S. security would be enforced if our government abides by all nuclear proliferation treaties,” activist Pat Birnie told the mayor and council. The local Raging Grannies, one of several groups of grandmothers around the country who have been singing, picketing and demonstrating to end the Iraq war, wrote and performed a special disarmament song for the local government.



MACON, Ga.: Mayor extends hand of friendship to Venezuela

Right-wing blogs are white hot with vitriol against an initiative by Mayor Jack Ellis, the first African American mayor of this central Georgia city of 97,000.

Last month, Ellis, a Democrat, dispatched two representatives with a letter to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, praising his government’s program of providing low-cost heating oil to troubled U.S. communities and extending the hand of solidarity. The letter invited Venezuelans to Macon and said that a delegation headed by Ellis would like to visit Caracas.

News of the letter in the Macon Telegraph prompted 20 pages of comments, many of them critical, on its web site.

“I am willing to stand with anyone who’s willing to stand for the eradication of poverty, elimination of disease and to have an assault on ignorance,” said Ellis.

The mayor is no stranger to criticism. Last year, when he convinced the City Council to pass a resolution of apology for slavery, the talk shows lit up. In February 2007, during a visit to Senegal, Ellis decided to convert to Islam from Christianity.

Elected in 1999, Ellis is finishing his second term. Only term limits prevent him from seeking a third.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @aol.com). Joe Bernick contributed from Tucson.