JENA, La.– Jena is in gridlock. As thousands of protesters gather in the small Louisiana town in support of six black teens initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate, the crowds are growing.
The number of buses leaving Alexandria, 40 miles away, was said to look like a hurricane evacuation. Cell phone service is over loaded and schools and businesses are closed. Local officials have declared a state of emergency and beefed up security schools.
Protest leaders stress that this will be peaceful protest. Meanwhile the Rev. Al Sharpton proclaimed to a crowd in front of the courthouse, "This is the start of the civil rights movement for the 21st century!"
|SLIDESHOW: Scenes from Jena, La.|
Riders on the buses have abandoned them due to stalled traffic. Instead they are moving on foot, some are holding banners and signs, while cameras are recording it all.
One older African-American woman told a younger man, "You will be able to tell others you were here this day."
Meanwhile, sidewalk vendors haven't missed a beat and are doing a brisk trade – hawking "Justice for the Jena 6" tee-shirts for $10 a pop.