While floodwaters were still rising around New Orleans on Saturday, mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock entered a social-media debate about the city’s removal of Confederate monuments and suggested that the flooding was result of God’s displeasure with the city.
“God has washed and flooded the City twice in 2 weeks. Maybe he is not happy,” Scurlock wrote around 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5. He added about 15 minutes later, “God gave man Freewill and instructions on how to Live. Perhaps erasing history and not honoring the past is not in liking to him and his ways….”
‘Gas on a unlit fire’
The bounce-house businessman — whose $625,000 investment in his own mayoral campaign placed him behind only Judge Desiree Charbonnet in fundraising (at nearly $870,000) and far ahead of LaToya Cantrell’s third-place haul of $150,000 — has already drawn unusual attention to his candidacy after being arrested May 6 at the site of the Jefferson Davis monument shortly before it was removed. Scurlock was originally charged with a misdemeanor after a confrontation with an officer he said would not speak to him, but city officials upgraded the charge to assault in his first court appearance in July.
That arrest formed the early part of the conversation Scurlock engaged in Friday afternoon, urging those criticizing him for getting in a confrontation with officers to attend his trial “to see Justice if it exists in this country.” (Note: The judge dropped the charges against Scurlock in a hearing Wednesday morning, Aug. 9.) As the online conversation progressed Saturday, Scurlock suggested that the city of New Orleans had no jurisdiction over the statues, and that their removal should be considered a federal issue decided on a national level.
“It effected everyone in the United States right? Put it on a National vote,” Scurlock wrote at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Over the next hour, Scurlock went on to predict that the removal of the monuments will lead to shootings, and that it should even be expected when an armed people feel their “legacy” is threatened:
The Heat has not even started. I have been to Ohio, Indiana, New York, New Hersey and Texas and I can tell you many who lost there ancestors on Both sides will not accept what you suggest is right. It’s just a matter of time till Gun Shots happen. Remember the Police shooting in Baton Rouge last year? Remember Mark Essex on the Howard Johnsons shooting away at Duncan Plaza? Will you take personal responsibility for the next occurrence triggered by your claim of a Racist event in 2017?
Will you take personal responsibility for when someone is shot because of this issue that you deem important? It does not solve the Economic problems, it does not solve the Crime problems and it does not solve people’s Hate. It actually throws Gas on a unlit fire to ignite and divide a country even further.
I’m talking when you push a Confederate ancestor over the edge and they shoot and kill someone because you Messed with there Family legacy and History. It’s that Simple. Please remember there is the Right to Bear Arms. I would not upset those that own them.
Finally, Scurlock said he was closing with the thought that a similar disrespect for history is “why God has washed and flooded the City twice in 2 weeks. Maybe he is not happy.”
In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon — just minutes before the City Council was to convene a meeting on the flooding — Scurlock confirmed to Uptown Messenger that he had written the comments online and stood by them. The flooding, Scurlock said, is part of a larger pattern of natural disasters striking New Orleans amid its ongoing mistakes.
“It’s not just the monument issue,” Scurlock said. “Quite frankly, when you look at the crime rates, the poverty rates — I just think there’s a higher power that is looking over everything, and he wants people to remove the hate.
None of these issues should be considered racial issues, Scurlock said, but “humanitarian” issues.
“…If we don’t get right and do things with a pure heart, I do believe there will be judgment,” Scurlock said. “I do believe in a higher power. I don’t believe this was coincidental. If New Orleans doesn’t get right, God knows what will happen.”
Similar arguments were made on a national level after Hurricane Katrina, and Scurlock said he agreed with their sentiments.
“I don’t want to call it judgment,” Scurlock said. “I’d call it a wake-up call because there was so much going wrong.”
Scurlock said he can see the pattern in where the damage is taking place. For example, he alleged that the tornadoes in New Orleans East mostly destroyed “prostitution hotels” and drug hot spots.
“New Orleans East needs a cleansing in itself,” Scurlock said. “There’s hardly anything going right, except the opening of dollar stores.”
Parts of Mid-City need a similar cleansing, Scurlock said. The area of the neighborhood near City Park where he owns a house got very little water compared to the areas near “all the housing projects,” he said: “There’s a lot of disrespect and a lot of bad things are happening.”
Scurlock said he understands that there is no way to confirm that the floods were God’s judgment, but that the pattern is difficult to ignore.
“This isn’t our world,” Scurlock said. “This is our creator’s world and he can do whatever he wants.”
‘The New Confederates’
Anika Ofori, a member of the Green Party of New Orleans who argued with Scurlock about his views on Saturday, said she had previously seen Facebook posts asserting that the city lacked money for pumping because of the monument removal prior to Scurlock’s contribution to the discussion.
“I was already aware of what the New Confederates are relating to this flood,” Ofori said.
Sculock’s comments are part of an ongoing rise in white nationalist outrage over the removal of their symbols, Ofori said, and she also believes it should be taken seriously because of the chance of violence. Several nights around the monument removals teetered on the edge of violent conflict, and it was preceded by the destruction of a contractor’s Lamborghini, she said.
Scurlock’s comments — particularly those suggesting that Confederate descendants are armed and may be frustrated enough to open fire — are also dangerously close to that movement, Ofori said.
“I think that he’s their voice. I’m not saying that he’s someone who wants to be armed, but he certainly a monument supporter. My initial impression is that he may not be a violent one, but the things that he supports are connected to what can be violent,” Ofori said. “Connecting the right to bear arms to someone shooting you because you disagree with them is very un-American.”
The ‘High Places’
The Jefferson Davis monument site where Scurlock was arrested sits directly outside the doors of First Grace United Methodist Church in Mid-City, and its pastor, Shawn Anglim, was among the early voices calling for it and other Confederate statues to be removed. Anglim declined to discuss Scurlock’s view of God and the floods directly, but said the Bible does offer some guidance on a city’s placement of statues.
“There is Biblical concern about what occupies the ‘high places’ in a city,” Anglim said. “If what occupies the high places, the places we gather in, are symbols that do not represent who we are as a people, then that is going to have an affect on you.”
There is flooding, wildfire, drought and other disasters all over the world, Anglim said, and often the problem is with too little water instead of too much. Meanwhile, managing water has always been a challenge for New Orleans — but could also be one of its best opportunities, he said, describing himself as inspired by new projects such as the Mirabeau Water Garden in Gentilly.
“If you live in a subtropical area, you’re going to have some hard rains, and the most creative and spiritual thing you can do is say, ‘How do we live with this wonder in the way that makes the most harmony?'” Anglim said. “The exciting thing to me is that people are figuring this out, especially young people. … That excites me. It makes me think there might be a city for my children to live in.”
Saturday’s floodwater drew high in the streets around First Grace, Anglim said, but did not enter the building. Those congregants who managed to make it into the pews on Sunday were the first to hear about the church’s St. Francis Day theme this year: “Living with Water.”