Descendants of slave claim chemical plant locked them out of historic cemetery
PLAQUEMINE- The descendants of a slave in Iberville Parish say money and power prevented them from paying respects to their loved one.
Over the weekend, the family says they were locked out by a chemical plant that borders the cemetery property. It's a long-standing legal battle.
The First Circuit Court of Appeal has ruled the chemical company is not in possession of that cemetery. But, for the family to get to it to pay their respects, Axiall has to open its gates to let them in. Family members say that stopped recently.
Janice Dickerson said she was blocked out on Mother's Day weekend from dropping off flowers at her mother's grave. Wednesday, Dickerson appeared with her daughter, and 81-year-old relative Myrle Kelly to drop off what they couldn't over the weekend.
"We can't get in," Dickerson said.
The family recently filed a restraining order against the chemical plant to prevent them from blocking their entrance to the cemetery. The long-standing legal battle goes back eight years when the family sued. The plant enclosed the parish road that they used to use to access the cemetery. Since then, they've had to call plant security to unlock the gates when they arrive. Recently, the plant stopped letting them drive through the second set of gates, preventing elderly relatives like Kelly from being able to pay her proper respects.
"I should be able to get to my daddy's grave and put some flowers on it," Kelly said.
"We can keep fighting this banana republic we have here. We are not going to stop, Dickerson said. "Here's my great grand baby here. If it's not ended, she's going to have to start the fight and stay in the fight. Every time we come she's going to come too."
Axiall and Westlake Chemical released the following statement:
The Westlake Chemical (formerly Axiall) facility in Plaquemine, La., which is located in Iberville Parish, is not a cemetery operator. However, an historic cemetery is located on the facility's property within its perimeter fencing. The plant follows these principles with regard to the cemetery:
• Preserve the dignity and sanctity of those who are buried in the cemetery;
• Protect the public while also allowing reasonable access to the cemetery;
• Ensure compliance with existing Federal and Site access requirements.
As a result, the facility has security measures regarding access to the cemetery within its fencing, which have been in place for years. Anyone visiting the cemetery is asked to contact plant security just prior to their visit and sign in with the security office upon arrival, after which the gates are unlocked and opened.
The company has no comment about pending litigation.
It's important to note, what the company stated above was not the case today. All sides are due in court Monday to hear arguments regarding the restraining order filed against the chemical company.