AFTER THE THOUSANDS of peace activists caravaned out of Jena, Louisiana yesterday afternoon, many of them attended a second rally in Downtown Alexandria.

 

Alexandria is not Jena, which is why event organizers shifted their peaceful demonstration to Alexandria, after symbolically marching in Jena earlier in the day. The event in Alexandria was attended by a delegation of political representatives, civil rights activists, and American citizens from all across the nation. Rev. Al Sharpton conducted his nationally-syndicated radio show from the steps of Alexandria City Hall. The event was orderly, the mood was positive, and there was not a single incident reported by the police.

 

That is, until around 9PM, when two teenagers who had driven in to Alexandria from another parish, a trip that probably took them an hour, drove around Downtown Alexandria with nooses strung from the back of their flatbed pick-up truck. Although most of the protesters had already left, there were around 200 people still left– a group from Nashville, Tennessee who had driven over 12 hours to join in the demonstration.

 

The teenagers, one of whom is a minor, were quickly arrested by the police, and the Mayor of Alexandria, Jacques Roy, drove back to Downtown to address the crowd. The story made national news this morning. One of the young men apparently branded himself with a Ku Klux Klan tattoo, and the other young man, Jeremiah Munson, is pictured on the right.

 

Americans have a right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and yesterday, American citizens celebrated these fundamental rights through a powerful expression right here in Alexandria. But those teenagers, one of whom was arrested for driving while intoxicated, had intended to disrupt this event by taunting peaceful protesters with a hateful symbol of a dark and evil chapter in America’s history.

 

And as the world’s attention descends upon Central Louisiana, people need to know that Alexandria is not the type of community that condones or tolerates hate. Nooses, whether draped from a tree or tied onto the back of a pickup truck, are a clear and blatant symbol of hatred; they represent the criminal and senseless murders of thousands of African-Americans and the shameful legacy of slavery.

 

Alexandria is a diverse and inclusive community, a community with a majority African-American population, and though we have struggled and continue to struggle with the vestiges of institutionalized racism, we are a city that celebrates its diversity. As witnessed yesterday, we are also a city that welcomes and encourages the fundamental rights of people to peacefully protest about an issue in which they believe. A peaceful protest, by definition, precludes individuals from engaging in taunts of physical violence, even when those taunts are contained in symbols. Such threats should be treated seriously, with the full force of the laws we have enacted to protect us.

 

Hopefully, we will not allow the isolated incident of two hateful people who are not members of our community to distract us, disturb us, or define us.

7 thoughts

  1. This blog entry reminded me of an article I read in the July-August 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, titled “The Colfax Riot”, by author Richard Rubin. If I may, I would like to include a snippet from the article since it is only available to subscribers…

    “Toward the end of my visit to Colfax, I took a walk through the town cemetery, which lies across Main Street from the library and the courthouse. Like many small-town southern cemeteries, it is one of the nicest spots in town—granite stones, chiseled and polished, interspersed with solid, proud slate markers more than a century old, all of them widely and evenly spaced apart. And, as in many small-town southern cemeteries, every last person buried there is white. There is not, I’ve been told, a racially integrated burial ground in all of Grant Parish.

    I strolled slowly through the cemetery, perusing names and epitaphs, pausing for a moment to inspect a new grave that had been dug that very morning. Glancing up, I spotted—across all the neat rows of neat headstones, and standing near a stately old tree—a marble obelisk, a dozen feet high, towering over every other marker. I made my way over to it, picked some lichen off the weathered inscription, and squinted in the afternoon sun to read it.

    IN LOVING REMEMBRANCE
    ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF
    THE HEROES
    STEPHEN DECATUR PARISH
    JAMES WEST HADNOT
    SIDNEY HARRIS
    WHO FELL IN THE COLFAX
    RIOT FIGHTING FOR
    WHITE SUPREMACY
    APRIL 13, 1873

    It is the frankest monument I have ever seen.”

    The fact that this monument is allowed to remain is unbelievable. As are incidents like the one you describe. All one can attribute it to is probably plain and simple ignorance.

  2. i am sixteen years old I go to georgetown high school my name is johnny edwards i am very near jena and i am a freind of jerimiha munson and this is what i think on the case of ilegal driving with extension cords made into loops.

    this was nothing but pure ignorance on my freinds part i will admit that to you, now admit this to your self is ignorance against the law well befor your answer let me persuade you. the constutution starts with the preamble to the constitution then it goes to artical one the fisrt words say under the constituion you have freedom of speech then press, respectively. these are just a few of your rights.the press has the freedom to write any thing they want even if its a lie thats why its called freedom it has a name for it made back in late 1800s “yellow press” or sensationalism thats why i dont read the news papers. after saying thati say this, the kids in jena hung nuces and blacks even played with it while it was in the tree a faculty member told this to the press. all my freind was doing was his freedom of speech with elactisity something the constitution was baced on. yes he did break some laws but not with the nuces. how come a person can haveother words displayed on their vehical and not get pulled over for it. the acts against my freind are wrong. i read he bible and so does he we both beleive in god as in jesus. on the news i saw jessie jackson speech and he said that his god will bring his rathon the city of jena and it will be but a spinter in the hand of society. thats not jesus crist he forives us for our sins. thabk you p.s, read the bible at leaast one and you better beleive ever word with no loop holes.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Edwards, for your comment. I hope that you will continue to exercise your freedom of speech, and even though we may disagree with one another on a few points, it is always refreshing to see a young person engage in important discussions.

    I also hope that you will decide to begin reading the newspapers, because although newspapers are sometimes inaccurate, they are often instructing and edifying.

    You touch on a very interesting point about our First Amendment rights, but I think we all need to be honest about the intentions of these two young men: This was not simply electrical cord tied into “loops;” they clearly intended to provoke a reaction by danging nooses from the back of their pick-up truck. While this speech act may be protected in the State of Louisiana, it doesn’t mean that the act is not offensive.

    Jesus implored us to treat our neighbors like ourselves, and I doubt he would favor anyone brandishing a symbol of racial hatred as a way of inciting or offending a group of peaceful protesters. As Mr. Munson’s friend, I hope you will be able to communicate this message to him.

    I thank you for your heartfelt remarks, and I wish you all of the best.

  4. You are amazed a monument placed to memorialized someone’s death in 1873 is still allowed to stand today. Why does that not surprise me Lamar?! Would you rather that all monuments placed after the civil war honoring confederate heroes be torn down? Would you prefer, like many to have the names of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee and others stripped from our public schools and streets?

    In having a discussion with friends the other day, which by the way are a different color and ethnic background than I, we spoke freely. We are amazed and even dumbfounded that today we are all walking around so afraid we will offend someone with our words we practically cannot speak our opinions. When we grew up the biggest challenge was busing. Kids got along in school. We picked at each other, called each other names and no one felt as if anyone OWED them anything.

    Today, we have become over sensitive about our race, our ethinicity and have to remain “politically correct” at all times. Teenagers walk around with large chips on their shoulders as if the world OWES them something. Parents have given them everything and they still want more.

    I for one am glad that monument still stands. Why? Because it serves as a reminder of a time that has past. A time we all need to get past. In order to live in this world, we cannot focus on who we are as individuals, what color, creed, ethinicity, etc. We need to focus on being human and where we fit, where we belong and how with someone else we can make a difference. Not how different are we.

    Erasing the past, does not create the future. Leaving the past for us to learn from and go forward does.

  5. Bird, I think you may be a little confused. I did not comment about the monument from 1873; the comment was made by maringouin.

    I agree that “erasing the past does not create the future.”

  6. Sorry Lamar, I misread the author of the diary. Hopefully maringouin will understand that “erasing the past does not create the future” as well once he or she has had a chance to read my post.

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