Friday, February 29, 2008

Bunkie Louisiana, Jena's Sibling

The following article is by Alan Bean of Friend's of Justice. Alan was one of the original 2 or 3 civil rights activist who aggitated for Jena Six and got the story out to the world after going there about this time last year.

By the way, he's a White preacher from Texas; not one of us Black people "playing victim" or "playing the race card".

Hard Times in Bunkie, Louisiana

At a glance, Bunkie looks like any other cash-strapped central Louisiana town. It’s a jumble of crumbling shacks, modest bungalos and a clutch of picturesque mansions straight out of Gone with the Wind. Bunkie used to be a predominantly white community, but as one old timer told me, “the old whites are dying and the young whites are movin’ out–pretty soon you got yourself a black majority. Used to be the east side was black and the west side was white, with Highway 71 as the divider. But now a lot of black folks are buying homes on the west side. That causes conflict; a lot of whites don’t want to live around blacks.”

I first visited Bunkie on February 22, 2007; exactly one year ago. I had been organizing the families of the Jena 6 and Tony Brown, a radio personality in nearby Alexandria, had interviewed me on his morning talk show.

“You’ve got to come down to Bunkie,” Denise Atkins told me, “we got it real bad down here.”

Denise arranged a public meeting in an old restaurant that was in the process of renovation. A crowd of thirty showed up for fried chicken and conversation. Everyone wanted to talk about Chad Jeansonne, a detective with the Bunkie Police Department who had learned every trick in the drug war manual.

Moments into the meeting, several participants noticed a shadowy figure lurking in a darkened corner of the room. A middle aged black woman in the uniform of the Bunkie Police Department emerged from her hiding spot and confronted her accusers.

“What you doin’ spying on us?” somebody asked. “I’ve seen you on those raids where the cops come busting in without no warrant. You know how they do us!”

The officer was unrepentant. “If ya’ll would quit doing drugs and hanging out on the street corner you wouldn’t have nothing to worry about!”

”We all work hard for our money,” a young woman shot back. It was a familiar conversation: Mos Def meets Bill Cosby. The disgruntled officer sauntered out of the room.

A few days later, I got a phone call from an officer with the Louisiana State Police. “Hello Dr. Bean,” a pleasant voice said. “I hear you’ve been down to Bunkie talking to some folks and I was just curious about your business.”

“I was invited to Bunkie by some concerned citizens,” I replied.

“What were they concerned about?”

“Oh, the usual,” I replied. “Racial profiling, warrantless searches, and coerced testimony and plea agreements. But the conversation kept coming around to one officer in particular: a fellow named Jeansonne; Chad Jeansonne.”

“Well, I’m sure your investigation will lead you to the conclusion that Mr. Jeansonne is a fine officer doing really good work for us down there in Bunkie.”

This prophecy has gone unfulfilled. After chatting with four ex-Bunkie police officers who had worked with Jeansonne I started taking the complaints emerging from Bunkie’s poor black community much more seriously.

Read the rest of the article here