A white separatist group planning a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade next month in Jena is suing the town, claiming officials are violating the Constitution by asking participants not to bring firearms, changing the parade route by one block and requiring the posting of a bond.
The Nationalist Movement filed the federal lawsuit Dec. 14 and is seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the town from interfering with the Learned, Miss.-based group's "Jena Justice Day" rally. Group officials claim the town's rules violate their 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution to due process.
The planned Jan. 21 march — on the holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader — 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," and against what they claimed was disproportionately harsh treatment of blacks by prosecutors.
The Jena High students were initially charged with attempted murder in connection with a Dec. 4, 2006, attack on a white student. All charges were later 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 the guidelines, town officials said.
There were no reports of arrests or vandalism after more than 20,000 rallied in support of the Jena Six.
Hackney said the Nationalist Movement will not come to Jena if their concerns are not resolved by Jan. 21.
Walter Dorroh, attorney for Jena, said the community would follow the laws and let due process work.
Wants to revoke integration
The Nationalist Movement has among its missions revoking integration at the University of Mississippi, and has called on its football coach to de-integrate the team.
In an Oct. 15 letter to McMillin, Richard Barrett, an attorney for the Nationalists, asked the town for electricity for loudspeakers and electronic equipment, "adequate security," restroom facilities, access to drinking water, "adequate and secure parking" and no noise from hecklers.
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 does not have responsibility for and would not be providing restrooms, water, food, on-site 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.
The Nationalists say Jena's rules governing public demonstrations are invalid and unconstitutionally over-broad.
The Nationalist Movement successfully sued York, Penn., over fees the city tried to charge it for a rally the group held in 2003. That rally drew five members of the movement.