Juneteenth at slave cemetery on $9.4B construction site
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Community and environmental groups have won court approval for a Juneteenth ceremony at a Louisiana site archaeologists have described as probably a cemetery for enslaved Africans Americans when the land was a plantation.
A state appeal court rejected an appeal by the local Formosa Plastics Group member that is building a $9.4 billion chemical complex there.
“Formosa Plastics’ emergency writ to the Court of Appeals was denied last night even before we could get our opposition in,” Jen Nessel of the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote in a news release Friday morning.
FG LA LLC, which is building the plant, will not go to the state Supreme Court, spokesman Jim Harris said Friday.
“We will be prepared with water and masks, if they need them, and will do everything we can to make their celebration successful and comfortable,” he said.
On Thursday, 23rd District Judge Emile St. Pierre upheld an order he had handed down at the start of the week, the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a news release.
“Members of Rise St. James, who are the likely descendants of those buried there, have previously visited the site to lay flowers, pray, sing, and report on the significance to the community of the cemetery,” the statement said. “Recently, however, despite state laws guaranteeing access to cemeteries, local law enforcement threatened arrest if the RISE members returned.”
Work in December confirmed that the site held graves, the statement said.
After getting no response to multiple requests to commemorate the day African Americans in Texas learned they had been freed, the group asked the court for a temporary restraining order against Formosa.
The judge noted Monday that Rise St. James and the Bucket Brigade, an environmental group, don't have to put up any bond "because important constitutional rights are at stake and Defendants will not suffer financial harm or other damages as a result of Plaintiffs’ prayer and peaceful ceremony on the cemetery which is in an open, empty field.”
Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that Union soldiers told enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and they were free.
Rise St. James and the Bucket Brigade also have gone to court to challenge state air quality permits and federal wetlands permits.