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Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hundreds Gather In Denver For The Jena 6

Hundreds of people — young and old, black and white — gathered at a Five Points cafe tonight to show their support for six black youths they feel are being treated unfairly by the justice system in Jena, La.

They sang and listened to speeches. Poets and spoken-word artists performed. At the end of the evening, organizers asked for donations, and soon they had collected more than $1,800 to help the Louisiana youths, dubbed the Jena 6.

But those who spoke at Blackberries cafe in Denver tonight used the rally to transcend the events in Jena, by also focusing on problems closer to home and by encouraging people at the rally to get involved with the political process.

"This country's soil is soaked in injustice," said

Read the La Salle Parish (La.) District Attorney's statement.

  • View a slide show of images from the rallies in Louisiana and Denver.
  • Watch video of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's comments.
  • Watch video of Al Sharpton speaking at the Louisiana protest.
  • Watch video with background information about the Jena Six case.
Jeff Fard, founder of Brother Jeff's Cultural Center. "The difference with this situation is people put light on it."

The rally mirrored others taking place in cities across the country and occurred on the same day tens of thousands of protestors marched through Jena in support of the Jena 6. But organizers of Denver's rally said they didn't know what to expect this evening.

The idea for the rally began only a few days ago in discussions among a group of artists and activists. The organizers promoted the event through word of mouth, on the Internet and in flyers.

Come evening, about 350 people showed up for the rally, overflowing the cafe. Many had to stand on the sidewalk outside.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Rene Marie, one of the rally's organizers. "What a great outpouring of community spirit. What I loved about it is there was so much diversity here."

Fifteen-year-old Andrew Craig said he came to the rally because he didn't agree with officials' decision to prosecute the Jena 6 so harshly.

"I think this is truly inspirational because it's showing how people are beginning to take notice," Craig, a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School said. "We're taking a stand against these unjust, biased decisions that are being made."

Menola Upshaw, the octogenarian president of Denver's NAACP branch, agreed.

"It tells me something because here in 2007 I really didn't think we would have to be fighting something like Jena, La.," she said.

As the night wore down, people from the audience were invited to come to the microphone and express their thoughts. Some talked about the situation in Jena. Some talked about local situations in which they saw injustice.

"This is not the only issue," Fard said in closing out the rally. "But this is an opportunity for us to show that we can come together. We need to move beyond black and white. We need to look at right and wrong."

Or, as Upshaw said as she left the rally and walked into the night, "I'm going to pray that we will have one America and not two Americas."

The Denver Post

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