By now you’ve heard that white supremacists are expected to march in Jena on Monday, Jan. 21, in protest of Dr. King’s holiday and to show support for Justin Barker, the white teenager, who six black teenagers are accused of beating in late 2006.
You’ve probably already heard that the group will march free of the restrictions placed on the Sept. 20 protesters who came in support of the Jena Six. A judge ruled in favor of the group saying one can’t put restrictions on free speech even if it does come in the form of insurance bonds and other permits.
Does that mean that the town of Jena will be giving the Louisiana NAACP its money back for getting the necessary permits and insurance the town required? What do you think?
Here’s a copy of the story.
A white supremacist group will be allowed to march in Jena, La., without posting a bond the city had sought, the town’s mayor said on Friday.
Jena wanted the Nationalist Movement to post a $10,000 bond and meet other restrictions before allowing the group to rally on Martin Luther King Day. The Nationalists want to protest a march held last September to support the so-called Jena Six, a group of black teenagers charged in the beating of a white schoolmate.
“After two status conferences with all parties and a federal judge, we acknowledge that our ordinance does not pass First Amendment scrutiny,” Mayor Murphy R. McMillin said in a news release Friday. “As we have said from the beginning, we are going to comply with the law. Although we disagree with the position of the Nationalist Movement, and with the beliefs that the group promotes, we respect the rights of its constituents to express those beliefs.”
The city ordinance required a bond and an agreement to hold the town harmless for damages or personal injury.
“The statute as written is overly broad and puts an undue burden on the First Amendment Rights of indigent persons, and indigent organizations, such as the Nationalist Movement,” said Jena counsel Walter E. Dorroh Jr.
Towns are permitted to have ordinances for groups wanting to protest or march, Dorroh said. If they require a bond, however, it must have a provision to set it aside for indigent groups or have an appeal process, Dorroh said. Jena’s ordinance did not, he said.
Marchers at the Sept. 20, 2007 event not only met the requirements, but exceeded them, McMillin said. The Nationalists, however, sued.
“We now know the ordinance is of questionable constitutionality, particularly in view of observations made by the federal judge in two status conferences,” McMillin said. “Knowing now that the ordinance is faulty, we are in the process of correcting it.”
The new ordinance will not be in place before Jan. 21, when the Nationalists are planning to march, said Beth Rickey, a spokeswoman for the central Louisiana town.
The Nationalist Movement, a self-described “pro-majority” group from Learned, Miss., will hold what they call “Jena Justice Day to Empower the Majority” on Jan. 21, the day set aside to celebrate the birthday of the slain American civil rights leader. The march will begin at noon and the rally at the courthouse should end by 3 p.m., a spokesman for the group said.
The events planned include a two-mile parade, speeches, ceremonies and petitions “as a centerpiece to abolish King Day.”
It was unclear how many of the group’s supporters were expected to participate.
The September rally drew thousands in support of the teenagers arrested in December 2006 and charged with attacking Justin Barker, a white classmate at Jena High School, and knocking him unconscious