NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Citizens of St. James Parish, La., have announced a federal lawsuit against the parish council, claiming acts of environmental racism by local leaders in the heart of the heavily-industrialized stretch of the Mississippi River often referred to as “Cancer Alley.”

On Tuesday morning, case organizers met on the steps of the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans where they announced the lawsuit with a goal to seek a moratorium on petrochemical plants. The plaintiffs say this comes after years of being ignored by the council.

The plaintiffs in the case are:

  • St. James Parish residents
  • Inclusive Louisiana
  • Mt. Triumph Baptist Church
  • RISE St. James

Full Press Conference


In a statement, Inclusive Louisiana says the suit documents the Council’s alleged ‘consistent pattern’ of using land ordinances to cram industrial plants within the parish’s 4th and 5th Districts. This namely includes petrochemical plants that release microplastics into the air, many of which can cause cancer. Both districts are majority-Black, including many residents whose families have lived on the same land for generations dating back to when their ancestors were enslaved on local plantations.

Other claims in the lawsuit are violations of the 13th Amendment, saying the land use system represents “the continuing vestiges of slavery,” and the 14th Amendment, claiming the system violates the Equal Protection Clause and the right to bodily integrity. Other allegations within the suit include federal and state codes, including the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

“We will not be ignored,” Shamyra Lavigne with RISE St. James said in Tuesday’s press conference. “Enough is enough.”

Along with the suit, the plaintiffs are also launching a local campaign called “Imagine St. James,” hoping to engage area residents and diversify the parish. View the campaign’s website here].

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