Bloomingdale mayor accused of racist comments on Facebook

BLOOMINGDALE, GA (WTOC) - The Mayor of Bloomingdale, Ben Rozier, is accused of racist comments on a Facebook post.

Bloomingdale resident, Victoria Ashston Keen, posted this video on Facebook showing a black male standing in the roadway blocking their car and other traffic.

Mayor Rozier said, "It caught my attention for the safety of our community."

In the comments feed on the Facebook post, Rozier mentioned he notified County Commissioner Dean Kicklighter and Lt. Gene Harley of the Chatham County Police of the incident. Harley is also a Bloomingdale resident and City Council member.

Facebook user Aneesha Galore then commented, "I guess people are threatened by this mentally ill man because he's a big black guy."

Rozier replied, "he could be white, black or green. No matter."...until he added a third comment reading "cotton picker."

Rozier said, "I read the bio of the lady (Galore) and it said she was a cotton picker at a cotton field or a cotton patch. At that point, I found that to be either humorous or weird. I replied to her, and her thread the words 'cotton picker.'"

WTOC's Danielle Lewan asked Rozier, "Why did you feel it was necessary to point out the woman's occupation?"

Rozier replied, "I didn't feel it was necessary to point out her occupation, I was just curious about it. To me it was funny she put that as her occupation."

Lewan then asked, "Did that need to be tied into the post of the gentleman in the video?"

Rozier answered, "Probably not. It was probably a bad decision on my part, but it was in a completely separate thread so I didn't think it tied in with that guy."

Other Facebook commenters said "I don't understand why you would use a horrible racial slur, regardless of what she posted as her employment position. How do you justify that?"

Another wrote, "I was expecting something racist to pop up in comments, but I wasn't expecting it from an elected official of Bloomingdale."

Rozier said the comment was taken out of context. He explained, "I'm very active on social media. But if you go back and look at my history, I've never posted anything racist. I'm not racist."

A statement was released from Bloomingdale Councilman Gene Harley:

"I and other council members are aware of the statement.  Though I cannot personally speak for Mayor Rozier, Mayor Rozier has never done or said anything in the past that would lead me to believe he is a racist.  I assume and pray there is an explanation.  As a person and council member, I personally believe hating people because of their color is wrong.   No matter your social status or how powerful you feel you are, we are all equal.  We came here in birth and we will leave here in death.  In this century of knowledge, being racist only proves how low in society you really are."

Rozier added, "I'm not going to quit social media. I'm not going to take my page down. But, yes, I should definitely guard what I say and I've learned a lesson from that."

The "cotton picker" comment by Rozier has since been deleted.

Several citizens commented on the Facebook post saying the gentleman blocking traffic is a reoccurring problem on John Carter Road. Chatham County Police say they are currently looking into the incident, along with the newly released video. Assistant Chief of Police, Terry Shoop, says this is the first time the problem has been brought to his attention.

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