Black leaders plan rally against US race crimes

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WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) Black civil rights leaders today announced a rally next week to put pressure on the US government to take a more aggressive stance against what they described as a rising tide of racially motivated crimes.

Leaders including Al Sharpton said they would march around the Justice Department in Washington on November 16.

''This Justice Department has been silent and absent and missing in action on cases of civil rights in our time,'' said Sharpton, a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, adding that the event would be ''massive.'' The rally comes on the heels of a spate of incidents in which blacks have been harassed with nooses, a symbol of racist lynchings.

Tens of thousands of marchers descended on the small town of Jena, Louisiana, in September to protest against what they said were excessive charges leveled against black high-school students accused in the beating of a white student.

They said white students who had hung nooses from a tree at a local high school were not prosecuted.

''Black folks are catching hell all over,'' said former Washington Mayor Marion Barry, now a member of the city council.

Barry and another city council member released a statement describing next week's protest as ''the greatest civil rights march since 1963,'' when hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington for racial equality.

Sharpton declined to describe the rally in those terms or estimate how many will attend but said organizers have chartered buses from other cities. Black radio hosts, who helped focus attention on the Jena case, are promoting the rally, he said.

Sharpton and other civil-rights leaders also criticized President George W Bush and Democratic presidential candidates for not denouncing the crimes, as well as lawmakers in the Senate for not pressing attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey on the issue.

REUTERS MP AS0317

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