“The legislation could inflict harsh new punishments on Black protesters opposing a massive complex of plastics plants on what are likely slave burial grounds.”
“On a cool, sunny afternoon last December, Gail Leboeuf thrust her right hand high in the air and sang the opening line to a gospel hymn with such force her microphone growled with distortion.
As she belted “Oh, freedom! Oh, freedom!” she was risking her own.
Leboeuf, a gray-haired woman in her late 60s, was among more than a dozen gathered on a dirt road amid an expansive sugarcane field in St. James Parish, an hour’s drive west of New Orleans, that Thursday to protest the construction of a 2,300-acre, $9.4 billion petrochemical complex that would double toxic emissions in a region already known as “Cancer Alley.” The public health concern was compounded by the desecration of what she declared that day to be “hallowed ground.”
Her ancestors ― enslaved Black workers ― were buried in unmarked graves not far from where she stood. For generations, they tilled and scythed, suffered and died to enrich a local plantation owner and the commodities traders up north. Even death couldn’t stop the indignities. A petrochemical company had already dug one pipeline through the cemetery a decade ago.”