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Bogalusa’s Mayor Files Complaint with Police Over Facebook ‘Racial’ Threat

Bogalusa’s Black mayor said he has filed a complaint with police over a comment from a Facebook group page, describing it as having “a racial undertone.” He linked the incident to a history of fatal attacks against Black people in the Washington Parish seat.   

At a news conference Thursday morning outside City Hall, Mayor Tyrin Truong said a citizen brought the comment to his attention two days ago. It was posted to the Facebook page “Bogalusa: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” a private page members must request to join.

“Yeah the mayor better watch it cuz he ain’t too far from lake (sic) Pontchartrain when he gets off in the evening he might be taking a little ride,” a person wrote in response to another post.

The Illuminator contacted the person, who confirmed that they wrote the comment in question. They are not being identified because they had not been charged with a crime as of Friday.  

Truong said Thursday he had filed a complaint with the Bogalusa Police Department, seeking to charge the person who wrote the post with violating state law for threatening a public official with violence. The district attorney for Washington Parish and Louisiana State Police have opened investigations, the mayor said.

Louisiana law describes threatening a public official as any written or verbal communication that threatens “serious bodily injury or death.” The statute applies even if the person who made the threat didn’t intend to carry it out, and it covers threats made on social media. Punishment for the crime can be a fine of up to $500, a prison sentence up to six months, or both.

Bogalusa’s Acting Assistant Police Chief Troy Tervalon took part in the news conference and confirmed the mayor’s case was being pursued, adding detectives would leave “no stone unturned.” There was no response to the Illuminator’s calls from District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s office or Louisiana State Police Troop L.   

“This threat has to be taken seriously, not only because of Bogalusa’s history but because of the South’s past,” Truong said. He cited past instances of bodies of Black men being disposed of in bodies of water by “terrorists.” 

Reached through Facebook Messenger, the person who posted the response confirmed they are a lifelong Bogalusa resident and told the Illuminator the post was not targeted at the mayor. They also said they used the talk-to-text function to write the post “that came out the wrong way.”

“It was about the bigwigs not getting the (sic) way anymore, what they could do or want to do,” the author said. “It was not meant to come out the [way] I wrote it, being me to do such a crazy thing.”

Police have contacted the person about the comment, the author said.

“I explained what happened and it goes on record in case something happens,” they said.

Friends would vouch that the author isn’t a racist, they said, adding that they wished they had never joined the Facebook page.

“My significant other for 21 years has just died, and all I know to do is go to work, pay bills, come home and look at Facebook, and watch TV and play with my dogs,” they said.

Washington Parish NAACP President Raymond Tate spoke at the news conference and said his organization will look to have Facebook take down the page in question if it continues to foster hate speech.

The mayor said additional security measures will be taken at City Hall, including security cameras, metal detectors at entrances and swipe cards for municipal employees. 

Truong, who was elected mayor in November at age 23, described Facebook groups where he said vitriol is commonplace as “anti-Bogalusa and anti-progress.”

A history of hate

Racial strife goes back longer than a century in Bogalusa, a city built around its long-running lumber mill. 

In November 1919, the Great Southern Lumber Co. went to great lengths to prevent Black mill workers from forming a biracial union, according to the Zinn Education Project. The company helped form the Self-Preservation and Loyalty League, a group of white racist workers who teamed with a hired force to attack union members, remove them from the mill and burn their homes.  

Sol Dacus, the leader of the Black mill workers, survived a shootout at his home. The next day, he marched through town with white allies, four of whom the Great Southern Lumber Co. gang killed in what’s known as the Bogalusa Massacre. 

In 1965, the first Black deputies sworn in as members of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office were attacked while on duty. Members of the Ku Klux Klan fired shotguns from the bed of a pickup truck at the deputies as they passed by in their police car, according to the LSU Cold Case Project. Deputy Oneal Moore, who was driving, was shot in the head and killed instantly. Deputy Creed Rogers was shot in his left shoulder and, once their car crashed into a tree, was left blind in his right eye when his head smashed into the windshield.

The klansman driving the pickup was caught in Mississippi, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of murder. The shooters were never found, and the FBI closed its case on the incident in 2016.

Source : Louisiana Illuminator