Group sues Town of Jena, La., over planned march

Published 8:28 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2007

JENA, La. (AP) — The Nationalist Movement, a self-described “pro-majority” group from Mississippi, is suing Jena, La., claiming the town is violating their constitutional rights.

The group has also filed for a temporary restraining order to keep the town and its mayor from interfering with the organization’s “Jena Justice Day” rally planned for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21.

The suit, filed in federal court Dec. 14, claims that asking participants not to bring firearms, changing the parade route by one block, requiring the posting of a bond and agreeing to a hold-harmless clause are “violative of due process under the 14th Amendment.”

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The Nationalists say Jena’s rules governing public demonstrations are invalid and unconstitutionally over-broad.

The Nationalist Movement, which is headquartered in Learned, Miss., has among its missions revoking integration at the University of Mississippi, and has called on football coach Houston Nutt to honor the heritage of the school, which “includes the all-white teams, which had mounted a national-championship and carried the school, as well as the Magnolia State, to stellar heights.”

The planned January march is in response to the thousands who rallied on Sept. 20 in Jena in support of six black teens who have become known as the “Jena Six.” The Jena High students were initially charged with attempted murder in connection with a Dec. 4, 2006, attack on white student Justin Barker. All charges have since been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery or second-degree battery.

“When a group of, say, minorities or homosexuals want to have a parade, they aren’t usually required to put up a bond or pay for police or pay for cleanup,” said Barry Hackney, a spokesman for the organization.

The ordinance, Mayor Murphy McMillin said, has been in place for “many, many years.” All seven of the organizations that participated in the September rally complied with all of the guidelines, town officials said.

There were no reports of arrests or incidents — including vandalism — after more than 20,000 rallied in support of the Jena Six.

In an Oct. 15 letter to McMillin, Richard Barrett, an attorney for the Nationalists, said the group was prompted to schedule the event — which he said will be the centerpiece of the group’s national protest against Martin Luther King Jr. Day — in “large measure because of the officials’ announced plans to set up a ‘biracial committee’ to placate demands by the recent minority-invaders.”

Barrett was referring to the town’s Community Relations Panel, which was created to address concerns of community residents, race and otherwise.

In the same letter, he asks for a number of things from McMillin and the town, including electricity for loudspeakers and electronic equipment, “adequate security,” restroom facilities, access to drinking water, and “adequate and secure parking.” Also, he said, there could be no noise of any kind generated by anyone which would disrupt or amount to a ‘heckler’s veto’ of the ceremonies.”

In McMillin’s Nov. 27 response to Barrett’s requests, he asked Barrett to fill out the permit application and provide proof, as is required in the ordinance, of a $10,000 bond. He also pointed out that the town doesn’t have responsibility for and wouldn’t be providing restrooms, water, food, onsite emergency medical care or electricity.

McMillin said these services were provided by the parish for the September rally, and he encouraged Barrett to contact the LaSalle Parish Police Jury about those needs.

If the issue isn’t resolved before Jan. 21, Hackney said, the group would not come to Jena.

Walter Dorroh, attorney for Jena, said the community would follow the laws and let due process work.