While Jena Sheriff says he is trying to rid his community of drugs, critics accuse him of exacting revenge against Black residents.
At 4 a.m. on July 9, 2009, more than 150 officers from 10 different agencies gathered in a large barn just outside Jena, Louisiana. The day was the culmination of an investigation that Sheriff Scott Franklin said had been going on for nearly two years. Local media was invited, and a video of the Sheriff speaking to the rowdy gathering would later appear online.
The Sheriff called the mobilization “Operation Third Option,” and he said it was about fighting drugs. However, community members say that Sheriff Franklin’s actions are part of an orchestrated revenge for the local civil rights protests that won freedom for six Black high school students – known internationally as the Jena Six – who had been charged with attempted murder for a school fight.
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One thing is clear: The Sheriff spent massive resources. Yet officers seized no contraband. Together with District Attorney Reed Walters, Sheriff Franklin has said he is seeking maximum penalties for people charged with small-time offenses. Further, in a parish that is 85 percent white, his actions have almost exclusively targeted African Americans.