"Jena 6" rally in Oklahoma City

People all around the country, including Oklahoma, gathered Thursday for a civil rights protest unlike many people say they've seen since the 1960's. Tens of thousands marched, held up signs, and spoke out against the arrest of six black teenagers in Jena. 500 of those demonstrators congregated on the steps of Oklahoma's capitol building.

The "Jena 6" story began in August 2006 when a black student sat beneath a tree where white students usually sit outside Jena, Louisiana's high school. The next day, nooses were hung from the tree. Some of the white students called it a prank. Then in December, six black students beat up a white student during a schoolyard brawl. That led to criminal charges against the six.

The six young men were originally charged with second degree attempted murder.  Those charges have been reduced to battery for all but one who faces criminal charges as an adult, and years in a Louisiana prison.

Many people came to the capitol Thursday from all over Oklahoma to demand equal justice for the "Jena 6."  Many say the fact that they're only high school students is the reason for their protest, not race.

Dressed in black, signs in hand and voices loud the crowd gathered in solidarity. "I'm here for the simple fact to let people know I will not put up with injustice for anybody, no matter what color you are.  If I'm going to live here, we all need to get along and be treated equal," said Latanya Harris.

The Oklahoma City Chapter of the NAACP compared the rally to the fights and demonstrations of years past that brought so many civil rights changes to America. Leroy Giles of Lawton was there to represent the Alpha Phi Alpha, a national fraternity that serves the black community.  "This is not a black issue or a white issue, it's a young peoples' issue," he said.  And if we're not looking out for young people of today who are going to be our future leaders, then we are going to have problems in our country."

Giles echoed the overall anthem for this day - equality for all.  Many people feel that the white kids in Jena who hung nooses on the tree should have been charged with hate crimes.  "I think when you have nooses hanging in a tree in Jena, Louisiana or Oklahoma, it's a racial issue," said one of the demonstrators Melissa Rabe.

"You can't pick who's going to be punished and who's not. That sends a message of separation," said Latanya Harris.

This is a message that's been heard before in the United States, especially in the south. "Many of the changes in our country have come through the civil rights movement, people standing up, marching, people speaking out. This is an old school method in 2007," said Giles.