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Shreveport UUs Witness for Justice for Jena Six

(September 20, 2007—Jena, LA) Nineteen members and friends of All Souls Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Shreveport, LA, carrying banners identifying the church and wearing tee shirts that read "Justice for Jena" on the front and the Church's name and city surrounding a large chalice on the back, participated in the rally to free the "Jena Six" in Jena, LA, yesterday.

Led by Rev. Lyn Oglesby and Director of Religious Education Susan K. Caldwell, the group rode on busses provided by African-American churches that participate in the Northern and Central Interfaith (IAF) Coalition. Longtime All Souls members Susan Bettinger and Sarah and Phil Boswell were part of the group.

Rev. Eliza Galaher of Wildflower UU Church in Austin, TX, and Rev. Fred Hammond of Jackson and Ellisville, MS, rode with the Shreveport group. Students from Southern University and Centenary College (led by UU sociology professor Loren Demerath) also rode with the All Souls contingent.

Few white faces other than those of the Unitarian Universalists (UUs) from Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans were visible throughout the day in a sea of African Americans from as far away as New York and Alaska, Maryland, Washington, DC, and North Carolina.

Some marched from a local park to the La Salle Parish Court House square, where Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and presidents of the Louisiana and National NAACP, among many others, addressed the crowds.

On a hot, sunny day punctuated by cool breezes, an atmosphere of camaraderie and comradeship permeated the crowd, as people from all over introduced one another.

The Shreveport group, outstanding in their identical tee shirts, created a lot of interest and were photographed "almost as many times as Jesse Jackson," according to one bystander. Along the march, the enthusiastic and cheerful group took a position on the sideline, held up the Shreveport UU church banners with its large chalice, and made friends with other marchers.

The Louisiana State Police strategically withheld entry to Jena for over a hundred busses and diverted them to Alexandria. The state police also delayed the arrival into Jena of another hundred or so busses, forcing them to park on the side of the road, causing many participants to be over an hour late reaching the rally. Only when determined and disgruntled people began to leave the busses and walk the remaining two miles into Jena did the troopers relent and allow the interminable line of waiting busses to move closer to the town to park and unload marchers.

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