Saturday, April 10, 2010

FBI FOIA Documents Received on Jena Six Case

In response to my FOIA request for all documents related to the Jena Six March, I received a packet from the FBI. One page of the file was denied to me based on legal grounds, but the packet basically has some newspaper articles from 2006/2007, with some doodling on them.

Then there's a chronology of the events leading up to the nooses in the tree, i.e the overt decision to let Blacks sit under the tree and the covert white response to prevent them from doing so.

There's a discussion of what punishment would and should ensue for the three identified white student noose hangers (whose names are omitted from the FBI documents). The discussion is about whether the students will be expelled from school or merely suspended, with the FBI expressing no opinion on the matter. I believe (without remembering for sure) that the FBI reported that the students were suspended and, once the students having been thereby punished, there was nothing further for the FBI investigate in Jena, Louisiana.

Then there are some new details about the noose tree. The noose tree was the only shade tree on school grounds, according to the FBI, and it provided enough shade for five or six picnic tables underneath. So, being excluded from sitting under the noose tree meant being excluded from sitting at picnic tables and excluded from sitting in the shade. At least that's the FBI report's take on it.

In another interesting twist, there are a couple of newspaper articles in the file concerning white supremacists' responses. These white supremacist threats seemed to be taken far more seriously than anything that Blacks might do in response to the noose hanging.

Nonetheless, the FBI saw no real merit to pursuing the matter and and kicked the case over to the Bush Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. There, Civil Rights makes the determination that no more review or investigation is warranted, and this decision was made in 2006/early 2007, apparently BEFORE the Black kids beat the white kid up, and BEFORE the school was torched, and BEFORE 30,000 Blacks marched on Jena. Like Katrina, the Bush Administration was asleep at the wheel and unable or unwilling to see the gravity of storms even after getting storm warnings. It's also reminiscent of September 11, 2001. National security people warned Bush that an attack was imminent, so Bush went on vacation, giving the unprecedented attacks all of the attention he believed they deserved at the time.

It's really quite ironic that Jena and Katrina happened in the same state of Louisiana. In both Louisiana cases, the Bush Administration was advised well in advance that a storm was brewing, and in both Louisiana cases the Bush Administration decided to do nothing until it was too late, much to the disadvantage of the Black people (and a considerable number of white people) involved.

Interestingly, there is no mention of the Jena March or the beating of the white kid in the FBI files as released. Perhaps once the FBI and Civil Rights division decided that there was nothing worth investigating in Jena, they decided to stick to that story regardless of the facts as they evolved. The FOIA documents say virtually nothing about Black people's response to the nooses, and the FOIA documents do not, to my recollection, report contact with any specific Black people or organizations before the decision to close the case.

If anyone finds any of this new and interesting, or would like to review the documents for another perspective, I can put the most relevant documents on the Internet in PDF files and/or send them by e-mail.

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