Louisiana cemetery declines to bury black deputy sheriff, quickly reverses decision

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Oberlin, Louisiana – A cemetery in Oberlin (LA) has issued an apology after it denied the burial of a Black sheriff’s deputy. The Hill reports that Karla Semien, the widow of late Officer Darrell “Soul” Robert Semien, brought the issue up online after she attempted to bury her late husband at Oaklin Springs. Semien was informed that she was ineligible to purchase a plot of land due to the whites-only clause.

The Associated Press reported that the board of the Cemetery held an emergency meeting to remove the whites-only provision from its plot sales contracts.

Cemetary Board President H. Creig Vizena said that he had no idea the clause existed in the by-laws and that he took full responsibility for not reading them.

Vizena called the incident “horrible.”

The issue of burying Black and White Americans dates back to 1876 and is cited in the legal case “Mount Moriah Cemetery Ass’n vs. Pennsylvania.”

A similar incident occurred in 1969 in Birmingham (AL) when a cemetery refused to bury Vietnam veteran Bill Terry Jr.

The family filed a lawsuit against the cemetery, and ultimately won the case with the interpretation of the 1866 Civil Rights Act ruling that the cemetery was “legally obligated to sell burial plots in its public cemetery to all United States citizens, on equal terms, without regard to race or color.”

According to the obituary, Officer Siemen served for the past fifteen years as a police officer for the Reeves Police Department and the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Siemen passed away on January 24th after being diagnosed with cancer.

The Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office posted this tribute on Facebook:

“It is with tremendous sadness that we report the passing of Deputy Darrell Semien. Dep. Semien passed away in his home surrounded by family.

Dep Semien served in the Transport Division at APSO as well as a patrolmen for Reeves Police Department. He served with honor and will be deeply missed.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Karla and the rest of his family.”

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