Page 4 - The University Star
Jena 6 issue draws demonstrators
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Plan includes new punishments CONTINUED from page 1
Hugh Grannum/Detroit Free Press/MCT HIGH TENSIONS: Attorney Melvin Butch Hollowell departs from Detroit Wednesday to participate in a rally supporting six black high school students accused of beating a white classmate in Jena, La.
By Howard Witt Chicago Tribune JENA, La. — Merchants bolted their doors, state police set up checkpoints and dozens of TV news trucks planted their satellite dishes Wednesday as thousands of civil rights demonstrators from across the nation headed to Jena in overnight bus convoys for a planned Thursday morning march to protest what they perceive as unequal justice in the racially-embattled central Louisiana town. Estimates of the expected crowd ranged from 10,000 to 50,000 as the loosely organized demonstrators departed colleges and churches to join Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III and the Nation of Islam in a mass demonstration in support of six black teenagers charged with felonies for the beating of a white student at the local high school. Meanwhile, the local district attorney at
the center of the controversial prosecution of the Jena 6 broke his long silence about the case, declaring it “is not and never has been about race.” With the white victim of the school beating, Justin Barker, standing silently behind him, LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters told a news conference his only motivation was “ﬁnding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions.” But Sharpton countered by criticizing Walters for charging the black students with felonies after months of racial unrest in the town but declining to similarly charge white youths who were implicated in assaults on blacks. “We need to show America that we’re not going to allow the clock to be turned back in Jena, Louisiana,” Sharpton said. Racial tensions in this mostly white town began to build a year ago after three white
students at the high school hung nooses from a shade tree in a warning directed at black students to stay away. Superintendent Roy Breithaupt dismissed the incident as an “adolescent prank” and declined to expel the white students, outraging many AfricanAmerican residents and setting oﬀ months of racial ﬁghts both on and oﬀ the campus. Although Walters insisted he would press ahead with his prosecutions, he did break with Breithaupt and other town leaders over the gravity of the noose incident. “This was an awful act,” Walters said. “It was not a prank but a vicious and crude statement ... The people who did it should be ashamed of themselves and mortiﬁed at the havoc they have unleashed on this community.” Nevertheless, Walters said, he could ﬁnd no hate-crime charges he could have lodged against the white youths, a conclusion also reached by the U.S. attorney in the region.
of the rental structures,” Bell said. The plan would require an annual inspection. If the property is properly maintained, the owner will be allowed to self inspect and self report the property for up to three years without any outside inspection. The plan would further call for a responsible party for the rental unit to reside in Hays County for emergency conditions. “This would ensure the responsibility of ‘out of town landlords’ who have commercial use property in San Marcos,” Bell said. The plan would feature a reward and punishment style of enforcement for unruly occupants and property that was not maintained. “Three conﬁrmed violations, criminal or civil, would result in revocation of the owner’s registration license for up to one year,” Bell said. He said the license registration would cost only half of 1 percent of the annual income of an average rental unit. “If you maintain your property correctly, you will only pay $10 a year after the initial fee,” Bell said. The proposal was preceded by comments from Councilwoman Betsy Robertson who said the plan might be too excessive. “I think this looks like overkill to me,” Robertson said. “I think I expected more of a task force operation. I think this is more than we need to solve this problem.” Mayor Susan Narvaiz followed by saying the city should use and strengthen the tools already in place. “We need to step up enforcement and develop a work group to help us look at these options,” Narvaiz said. She would not say who the
his plan would ensure the health and safety of the rental occupants and ensure minimum standards and equitable enforcement of the rental structures.”
—Ken Bell ﬁre marshal
members of the work group would include, but did suggest some possible members. These members include Jason Tarr of Great Locations and Vance Elliott of Vance J. Elliot Realty, who manages several rental properties in San Marcos. “The work group will include seven members and should include people who are experienced with rental properties and tenants,” Narvaiz said. “We are going to work together to strengthen and tweak the tools we already possess.” Narvaiz said a long-term plan was needed to address the Sagewood area. “On the idea of long-term concerning the Sagewood area, I think we should explore what else can be done there,” Narvaiz said. “How can we work with the owners and the investors and see what we can do? Maybe we can put something in place that’s a better buffer for the neighborhood, like married student housing. But in the end we are doing a better job today in zoning than we were doing before.” Narvaiz said the names of the members of the work group would be announced at the next city council meeting Oct. 2.