Thousands come together in support of the "Jena 6"

by Leanne Greg
NBC News

Thousands of people gathered in the small town of Jena, Louisiana Thursday to hold marches and rallies in support of the so called "Jena Six".

The case involves six black student who had a fight with a white classmate.

What resulted has caused troubling questions about race relations in the community.

For many of these demonstrators, it's more than a rally.

"This is the beginning of the civil rights movement of the 21st century," proclaimed the  Reverend Al Sharpton.

Sharpton and other civil rights heavyweights helped organize the demonstrations to support the six black teenagers initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate.

Those charges have been reduced, but they still could face prison time.

A few months before the fight that led to the  controversial charges, three white students  who hung nooses from a tree at the high school were only given school suspensions.

Judge C.V. Landers made the trip from Dallas to join the march.

"It's difficult for me to talk to kids on a daily basis about whey they should be involved in the legal system when something like this happens," Landers said.

On Wednesday the district attorney denied this case has ever been about race.

"It's about finding justice for an innocent victim and about holding people accountable for their actions," said Reed Walters.

Similar protests showing support for the Jena Six were held across the nation on Thursday.