Somewhat of a tradition is in the making in Iberia Parish, one that coincides with the annual Sugar Cane Festival, but instead of celebrating the start of harvest, this developing new custom is one shared solely by the city’s predominately black West End community and the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office.

This year’s festival, which took place over the weekend, came to a close Sunday evening, and it seems once again IPSO resorted to what appears to be another over-exertion of force on the city’s black residents.

Sunday’s clash was captured on video, and it didn’t take long before that footage made it onto YouTube. The video depicts IPSO deputies attempting to clear people from the streets of the West End — all while the “legit” celebration continued in the city’s main plaza — by using what appears to be excessive force to get their point across.

The video shows deputies using batons to subdue an unidentified black male, which immediately prompts a loud gasp from the crowd of startled onlookers. An unidentified black woman is also captured in the video as she’s being dropped to the ground by deputies.  

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A screenshot from the YouTube video depicting Sunday's altercation
The problem with Sunday’s clash is that it’s no anomaly, and represents only one of three such Sugar Cane Festival clashes in the West End between residents and Iberia’s seemingly overly-aggressive law enforcers.

Though these tiffs may trace back even further in history, it was during the 2006 Sugar Cane Festival when IPSO deputies first came under fire for employing crowd control tactics. The incident, like this year, transpired on the Sunday marking the festival’s end, when IPSO deputies, attempting to clear out the streets, launched tear gas onto a crowd. The unsuspecting crowd numbered well into the hundreds, mostly black residents, including the elderly, women and children.

IPSO’s use of tear gas didn’t take long to reach Rev. Raymond Brown of the New Black Panther Party. When Brown arrived in New Iberia to protest IPSO’s actions after the 2006 incident, signs popped up with messages like “IPSO are liars” and “Sheriff, how many blacks did you gas today?”

Tensions again revved in 2011 when IPSO returned to its use of crowd control tactics along the West End’s Hopkins Street. As in 2006, and this year’s incident, the 2011 clash came on the Sunday closing out the year’s Sugar Cane celebration.

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A YouTube screenshot showing  IPSO deputies clearing Hopkins Street during the 2011 Sugar Cane Festival.

Instead of using tear gas to clear the streets that Sunday in 2011 — the IPSO admitted it used a gas dispersant (not tear gas) on a West End crowd two nights before — sheriff's deputies, equipped with sound canons and wailing sirens, forced their way through the busy thoroughfare in what one elderly lifelong West End resident described as being eerily reminiscent of what she experienced growing up as a young black southern girl in the days of Jim Crow.

In 2011, perhaps in hopes of never repeating the tear gassing incident from 2006, a group of West End residents had gone so far as to obtain a state permit allowing for that year's festivities along Hopkins Street (a state highway).

Below are the videos showing the incidents in 2011 and this past Sunday.

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