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Dispute between relatives, chemical plant heats up over historic slave cemetery

2 months 1 day 1 hour ago Monday, May 22 2017 May 22, 2017 May 22, 2017 4:29 PM May 22, 2017 in News
Source: WBRZ

IBERVILLE PARISH- The dispute between the descendants of Robert Taylor, who set up a cemetery in Revilletown back in 1881, and a chemical plant controlling access to it ended up in court again Monday.

Janice Dickerson claims the chemical plant has locked out her and her relatives from accessing the cemetery to properly pay their respects. Things heated up last week, when she claims she was locked out along with other disabled relatives from driving in to deliver Mother's Day flowers.

In court Monday, there was an agreement of sorts to let descendants of the historic slave cemetery visit during normal business hours with both gates open if they are with disabled folks. However, there are many conditions and the family still isn't okay with it.

The First Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last year the chemical plant doesn't own the property. But, it still manages to control who enters and when.

The family is suing the plant and others after Iberville Parish allowed the chemical company to close off a parish road, effectively locking them out of the very place where their loved ones are buried.

"Do you really think they care about dead folks, black dead folks? No," Janice Dickerson said. "From 1881 until the present, who the hell took care of that grave? We did. We didn't have restricted access."

Things reached a boiling point last week when they claim they couldn't put flowers on their loved ones graves during Mother's Day.

"I thought it was clear that during my past communication with them that all access would be available during the Mother's Day weekend," Dickerson's attorney, Jerry D'Aquila said.

Last week, there was a similar problem. WBRZ was there when several disabled relatives arrived to pay their respects to drop off the Mother's Day flowers and were not allowed in. A restraining order was filed to prohibit the plant from blocking access, but that was not heard Monday. Instead, a trial date was set for August 25 for the matter to be heard.

"It's heartbreaking for them because they can't visit the grave site of their loved ones," D'Aquila said. "That cemetery has been in existence for years and it's heartbreaking for them and they're very emotional."

Meanwhile, as the issue lingers the family isn't so sure they'll ever get justice.

"When you're hooked up in this political climate and you've got the support of every elected official, judges don't have to be fair," Dickerson said. "When they walk around and say justice is blind, it truly is blind. We should have never been in this fight."

WBRZ reached out to all the attorneys for the chemical plant involved, but were told they could not discuss the case. A spokesperson for Axiall and Westlake Chemical Plant said he could not comment due to pending litigation.

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