By Marisol Bello, USA TODAY
When demonstrators rally on the steps of the U.S. Justice Department Friday to protest the government's handling of hate crimes, blogger-turned-activist Shane Johnson will be waiting for them with a protest of his own.
Johnson and a modest band of supporters are pushing back against the outpouring of black support for black male offenders, such as the Jena 6, saying it comes at the expense of female victims of black-on-black crime.
The group is leading a Jena 6-like grass-roots movement through e-mails, blogs and rallies. It wants to call national attention to the beating and rape of a 35-year-old Haitian woman and the beating and sexual assault of her 12-year-old son by up to 10 assailants in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In June, armed attackers broke into the woman's apartment in Dunbar Village, a public housing project, where they repeatedly raped and sodomized her and forced her to perform oral sex on her son, according to a grand jury indictment. They poured household chemicals on the victims' eyes and threatened to set them on fire, police and media reports say.
Four teenagers, ages 14 to 18, have been charged. Police are searching for other suspects.
Johnson organized the rally after he read about the assault on the blog, "What About Our Daughters?" He questions why national black leaders and black media who supported the Jena 6 and the alleged victim in the Duke lacrosse case have ignored the Dunbar Village attack, in which the mother, son and alleged attackers are black.
"This is one of the most horrific and barbaric crimes I've heard about," says Johnson, 32, a social worker from Washington. "But if the victim is a black woman you seldom hear about it … especially if you have black victims and black perpetrators."
The case of the Jena 6, in which six black teens were charged with beating a white classmate in Jena, La., gained national attention. Civil rights leaders, such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the NAACP, as well as black radio, newspapers and websites, held up the youths as symbols of an unequal justice system that treats blacks more harshly than whites.
In the Duke case, a black stripper accused three white lacrosse players of rape, but the case was thrown out amid findings by the North Carolina attorney general and the state bar of prosecutorial misconduct. The prosecutor, Mike Nifong, has been disbarred and served a night in jail for withholding evidence that would have cleared the players.
Sharpton, who is leading the hate crimes rally today, says he has spoken about the Dunbar Village case on his nationally syndicated radio show, but he says no one involved with the case called his organization to ask for help.
"People assume I'm everywhere," he says. "If the victim in Florida would have called me, I would have come. … Justice is justice, no matter who the victim is, no matter who the victimizer."
Thousands of protesters from across the country are expected to rally today, says Sharpton's spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, says he had not heard about the Florida case, but "it sounds like the case deserves attention. The fact is, however, that there are many, many cases that deserve attention."
An August report by the Justice Department showed that in 2005, blacks represented 13% of the U.S. population but accounted for nearly half of its murder victims. Most of the black murder victims — 93% —were killed by other black people. Blacks also were the victims of 15% of rapes, assaults and other non-fatal violent crimes.
Gina McCauley, an Austin attorney who runs the blog "What About Our Daughters?," a site devoted to fighting stereotypes of black women in popular culture, says the Florida case has garnered little national attention because "we don't value the lives of black women."
"We need to be talking about black-on-black crime," she says. "I have more of a likelihood of being attacked by a black person than a white person. We're being slaughtered. Why isn't anyone marching about that?"
Photo Attribution: H. Dar Beiser, USA Today