The state police said the crowd was at least 15,000, probably 20,000. Organizers thought it was double what the police were saying.
At midday, buses were still bringing marchers into town. At some point the gridlock was so bad that many simply got out of the buses and went in on foot.
By afternoon, organizers said, the crowd ballooned to 50,000. By that point, state police said, it was too spread out to count.
One measure of the symbolic significance of Jena and of Thursday’s march in Louisiana was demonstrated at an LA event Thursday night at the California African American Museum. It was a gala affair organized to honor the LAPD’s highest ranking black officer, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, and Douglas Barry, the city’s first black fire chief, and had no particular political overtones.
The evening drew a big crowd. All but a smattering in the audience were African American. (I was among the smattering.) At some point in the night, one of the speakers brought up Jena.
“This night is made more powerful,” he said, “by the fact that it’s being held today….on the day of the Jena march.” Heads nodded all over the room, then the applause grew and grew.
The speaker never said why Jena was important.
He didn’t have to.
Various news outlets are reporting that the Jena issue has thrown something of a hand grenade straight into the midst of the field of Democratic presidential candidates.