MTV News' Shaheem Reid has been reporting from Jena, Louisiana, where thousands have gathered to support the "Jena Six," six black students who were initially charged with the attempted murder of a white classmate (see "Jena Six: What Sparked Protesters To Descend On Small Town In Louisiana?"). He's been filing since around 6 a.m. on Thursday (September 20) — check out his reports from earlier in the day.
JENA, Louisiana — "Justice Even Needs Assistance" reads the shirt adorning one middle-age lady, who traveled with her church group from Dallas to Jena. She's sitting on a bench in front of what used to be a Jena High School administration building on East High School Drive. The building was burned to a crisp on November 30, 2006, in what was believed to be arson, with blacks and whites blaming each other. The walls are gone and you can actually see part of the hallway from outside.
"No justice! No peace until the six are free," college students repeatedly yell as they stand in defiance on a huge lump of dirt. The spot is where the infamous "whites-only tree" — as some media outlets have been referring to it — once stood before it was chopped down by administrators earlier this summer. White students allegedly hung nooses on the tree the day after a black student decided to sit under it. (Some widely reported details about Jena and the Jena Six were questioned by an Associated Press report on Monday.))
A few feet away, a man with long dreadlocks starts to rail.
"Where was all of this when Patrick Dorismond got shot? What about Sean Bell?" he ranted, recalling two black males who were fatally shot by New York police officers in March 2000 and November 2006, respectively. "We should have been doing this," he rants.
"I wanna see Ludacris and P. Diddy out here," he continues. "Where's Young Jeezy when I need him? Where's Kanye? The Louis Vuitton Don is not here. ... What I am hoping is that it's not like Easter, where everybody goes to church to hear the sermon, then forgets the message the next week."
Despite the man's fervent dialogue, the setting at the school has been very peaceful. It almost feels more like going to a museum rather than a protest march. Although Jena High's doors are closed, people are walking around the campus taking pictures and talking among themselves.
A little later, the Reverend Jesse Jackson takes command with a speech at the LaSalle Parish Courthouse.
"We will not make any concession until the parents and lawyers sign off," Jackson has the people repeat. "We will come back again and again and again until Mychal [Bell, one of the Jena Six who has been in jail for almost a year] is set free and the charges are dropped.
"We want all the boys sent to school and not to jail," Jackson continues, having the people answer him in unison.
"Our agenda, one agenda: Free Mychal Bell. Drop the charges. ... Free the Jena Six and drop the charges now."
A few miles away from the protest, Bun B and Mos Def are at a gas station meeting up. Bun had just left the march. Mos was having a hard time entering the central area because the roads leading to the heart of the protest were temporarily shut down one way. It is too crowded.
Mos' black T-shirt reads "Hip-Hop is Bigger Than the Government."
Bun's shirt simply says "Free Jena 6."
"I grew up right next to a town where it's strictly white people," Texas native Bun explains of why he got involved. "I've been privy to these small incidents of violence in these all-white towns. ... We were blessed to find out about the Jena Six and were blessed to try to make some type of impact in this community before things went too far."
Mos is disgusted that more of his peers did not show up. He reached out to a myriad of artists and couldn't figure out why they can always hop private planes to go to music-industry events but couldn't come out for the Jena Six.
"Shame on everybody who's not here," Mos fumes. "I'm f---in' mad. I'm disappointed to always be coming to these things and it's only one or two people [from the industry here]. If you ain't gonna use your voice, then be quiet. ... I'm disappointed and ashamed."
"It's no need to bite your tongue in a situation like this," Bun concurs.
When Mos leaves, he vows to get to where the people were protesting even if he had to walk several miles. Minutes later, singer Lyfe Jennings arrives.
A court hearing for Mychal Bell — the only member of the Jena 6 still in jail — has been ordered to take place in the next three days, his attorney told CNN on Thursday.
[This story was originally published at 5:47 p.m. ET on 09.20.2007]