Green Party urges dropping all Jena Six charges, probe racism in justice system
Green Party of the United States
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Greens urge Louisiana to drop all charges against the Jena Six, call for a national discussion of racial bias in criminal justice systems throughout the US
WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders called on the State of Louisiana to drop all charges in the Jena Six prosecution, and urged a national discussion on the US justice system's unequal treatment of African Americans and other people of color.
Greens will be among the thousands rallying in front of the Jena, Louisiana, courthouse on Thursday, September 20, as the next Jena Six trial begins. Many Greens and the DC Statehood Green Party have contributed to the Jena Six defense fund. (For background on the Jena Six, see the article links below.)
The Green Party of Louisiana <http://www.lagreens.org>, at its September 8 statewide convention, passed a resolution by consensus declaring, "We, as the Green Party of Louisiana call for the justice and freedom of the Jena 6, the Angola 3, Gary Tyler, and all other political prisoners."
"Two things are obvious about the Jena Six prosecution -- first, that the extreme charges would never have been brought against the students if they had been white, and second, that if not for the national attention the case has drawn, the students would have already quietly been thrown in jail," said Malik Rahim, former Green city council candidate in New Orleans.
"We urge the Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to drop all of the charges against Jena Six defendants, but that's not enough. The case has focused attention on how the legal system treats black and brown people, and how poor Americans and people of color suffer more severe charges and harsher sentencing, inadequate legal representation, and plea bargain deals forced on the innocent. Let this be an occasion for a national debate on how to restore justice to our criminal justice system," added Mr. Malik, who is also co-founder and organizer of the Common Ground Collective <http://www.commongroundrelief.org>, which provides relief for victims of hurricane disasters in the Gulf Coast region and support in rebuilding affected communities in the New Orleans area.
Greens have called for an end to the war on drugs and abolition of the death penalty, both of which have been applied disproportionately against people of color. Green leaders also support the repeal of zero tolerance and mandatory sentencing statutes, which enlarge the power of prosecutors and erode judicial discretion. (See "Green Party says racially biased US justice system needs drastic overhaul," Green Party press release, July 25, 2007 <http://www.gp.org/press/pr_2007_07_25.shtml>. )
"In many towns and states across the US, lynch mobs and Jim Crow laws have merely been replaced with police, prosecutors, and judges who make a special effort to target African Americans. The result has been gross racial disparities in incarceration, with black people imprisoned at over five times the rate of whites and Latinos at nearly twice the white rate. Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere," said Cliff Thornton, co-chair of the Green Party of Connecticut and co-founder of Efficacy, Inc. <http://www.efficacy-online.org>, which promotes major reforms in drug policy.
Greens cite the fact that the US also has the world's highest incarceration rate, with 5% of the world's population and 25% of all the world's prisoners, as evidence that the justice system needs drastic reform. Louisiana has the highest incarceration in the US. The Green Party -- unlike the Democratic and Republican parties -- has strongly opposed the expansion of the private prison industry, warning that the demand for corporate profits creates a national economic incentive to fill cells.
"An appeals court has overturned the conviction of Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, because he should not have been charged as an adult. This is a clue that Jena prosecutors were out for blood when they targeted black students, while going easy on white students who've gotten into fights. Jena will deservedly be the focus of greater national anger if the charges are allowed to stand; but we need to investigate and fix the criminal justice system throughout the US, wherever racial and economic bias is evident," said Alfred Molison, Green candidate for City Council in Houston, Texas <http://www.votealfred.com>, Co-Chair of the Green Party Black Caucus <http://gpblackcaucus.blogspot.com>, and keynote speaker at Louisiana Green Party's state convention.