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Jackson Calls Democratic Absence in Jena a 'Missed Opportunity'
By: Hazel Trice Edney
NNPA Editor-in-Chief
Originally posted 10/11/2007

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose controversial remarks about Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama made headlines after the Jena Six march two weeks ago, says his comments were meant to say that nearly the entire Democratic leadership missed one of the most important civil rights moments so far this century with their absences from the march.

“The real point is that I thought the Democratic leaders should have been in Jena because that’s where the critical crisis is and that’s where you have thousands of Democratic voters crying out for help at the highest levels of our government,” Jackson told the NNPA News Service. “What better place to be than to be in Jena demanding Senate hearings on criminal justice? What better place to be than to be at Jena identifying with those who have been injured by such extreme cases?”

After the Jena march, Jackson sought to clarify remarks that he made to the Columbia State newspaper, which quoted him as saying that Obama was ''acting like he's white'' for not speaking out more in the schoolyard brawl that followed the hanging of three nooses in a so-called “White Tree.”

Among students, seasoned activists, and common citizens that traveled across the country to protest the injustices against six Black teens, only a handful, most notably a few Congressional Black Caucus members, were national Democratic leaders.

Jackson, who has consistently voiced support for Obama since the then Illinois senator made his blockbuster speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, says he never meant to single Obama out.

He says national leaders of the Democratic Party, which gets close to a hundred percent support in elections, should do better in supporting Black voters on clearly racial causes.

“When a child is knowingly being tried by an adult in adult court that’s child abuse,” Jackson says. “When the D. A. tries a juvenile as an adult, knowing it, that’s prosecutorial misconduct and I think that leadership should be there to reach out to White and Black parents.”

Obama spokeswoman Candice Tolliver says Obama, who has issued several statements in the Jena Six case, never took Jackson’s remarks personally.

“The Senator considers Rev. Jackson as someone who has been a mentor of sorts for him. So, he took Rev. Jackson at his words when Rev. Jackson said those words were taken out of context,” Tolliver says. “That was the end of the story for him. Immediately Rev. Jackson called us. Jesse Jackson Jr., who is one of our co-chairs, talked directly with the Senator. The Reverend, they talked directly with each other. Rainbow Push put out a statement the next day….There was no immediate reaction other than we knew that Rev. Jackson was a huge supporter and we knew that it would be cleared up one way or the other.

Jackson concludes that his support for Obama is unwavering. But he maintains there was a gaping absence in Jena.

“I support him very much. I have offered my vote to him unsolicited and I continue to support him. But, I think that not being in Jena was an opportunity missed.”

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