Councilman Fred Richardson’s recent social media comments have drawn the ire of Mobile residents and others and inspired many new posts in a Facebook group dedicated to his removal from office.
Richardson himself says the comments — which began in response the shooting death of 19-year-old Michael Moore by Mobile police officer Harold Hurst, but have largely taken on a different purpose now — are in response to attacks he received for speaking out.
“It’s one person, with the last name of Mathews, who in the last seven days has gone from Facebook page to Facebook page slamming Fred Richardson,” Richardson said. “I had enough of that so I put my own post up.”
Richardson is referring to Mobile resident Adrienne Mathews-Corley, who has been an outspoken supporter of the MPD in response to the Moore shooting. On Facebook, under the name Adrienne Orsborn, she posts videos supporting the police and taking Richardson and some of the city’s other black leaders to task over their response to the Moore shooting. In an email message, Matthews-Corley wrote that black leaders, including Richardson, are “fanning the flames of social unrest over a police shooting that was nothing like the situation in Ferguson.”
“Councilman Fred Richardson’s response to the police-involved shooting death of Michael Moore was downright disturbing,” she wrote. “On June 18, the distinguished councilman wrote on his Facebook, ‘No one can say with absolute certainty that Michael Moore had a gun that appeared, disappeared and reappeared while his dead body was in the hands of our authorities.’ Later, Robert Blackmon, Moore’s vehicle passenger, went on the news saying, ‘Mike had a gun,’ but the councilman ignored it. Instead of calling for cooler heads, Mr. Richardson doubled down by yelling from Shiloh Baptist pulpit that he wanted ‘the same level of policing in Happy Hills as Spring Hill!’”
In response to Matthews-Corley’s posts, Richardson posted a mugshot of her from 2013. Listed as Adrienne Orsborn Matthews, she was charged with theft of property. Along with the mugshot, Richardson posted: “She is on my Facebook page expressing venomous bitterness against Fred Richardson and crime. But she did not tell the rest of the story.”
Richardson said he felt the post was fair because it was public information. Matthews-Corley wrote that she will not speak about her arrest record, other than to say she has made mistakes in the past and has taken responsibility for them. She is “curious,” however, why Richardson would resort to “bullying techniques.”
“I am merely a concerned constituent, which makes it all the more curious as to why the senior elected city official in a city the size of Mobile has devoted such a fair amount of time and energy attempting to publically humiliate me and shut me up,” she wrote. “His efforts, however, have only given me a sense of duty to give a voice to the voiceless like me.”
In more comments, Richardson said many of the members of the Facebook group “Get Rid of Fred Richardson” were from outside of his district and the city, and urged his supporters to look up their names and addresses. While some members of the group interpreted it as a threat, Richardson said he was simply trying to prove some members of the group aren’t his constituents.
In other comments, Richardson made reference to the election and these group members’ attempts to recruit a “voiceless person” and an “Uncle Tom” to represent District 1 in his place.
In her email message, Matthews-Corley wrote that Richardson referred to her as a “voiceless person” and she also accused him of “finding different ways” to call her an “Uncle Tom.”
Richardson, however, said he wasn’t referring to an individual in those comments, but instead to the group’s desire to find an “Uncle Tom” to run against him.
While members of “Get Rid of Fred Richardson” accused the councilman of managing a second, unofficial Facebook page under his name featuring even more criticism of those who have disagreed with him in the past, Richardson said he has nothing to do with it.
Although his official page is friends with the unofficial page in which the writer of the posts is sometimes referred to as “Hawkeye,” Richardson said he contacted Facebook about the page when he received a friend request.
This isn’t the first time Richardson has made comments he felt were in defense of himself on social media. Richardson also responded to several tweets sent by Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper in response to the council’s attempt at a rule change that would’ve limited the mayor’s ability to add items to the council agenda. The proposed rule change was eventually dropped from consideration.
When asked if he felt Cooper was behind the Facebook group in question, Richardson said “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Coincidentally, the unofficial “Fredrick D. Richardson” page made a post dated March 10 accusing Cooper of being behind the group looking to oust the councilman.
Matthews-Corley is outspoken about more than just the Moore shooting, as referenced in her email. The failure of the black leaders in Mobile extends further, she wrote.
“I am not excusing the white officials by any means, but I am particularly disappointed in our black leaders as our black communities are the ones crumbling even while Mobile seems to be enjoying some success in recent years,” she wrote. “Our black leaders have ignored the segregation that has lingered in our neighborhoods and churches, even into the 21st century, and they have abandoned integration efforts in our public schools. They have, for the most part, embraced the old philosophy of “separate but equal,” even though we know separate is never equal. Our black communities are undereducated and racked by poverty and violence.”
She hopes her advocacy will lead to change, she wrote.
“I want my black leaders to mold consensus,” she wrote. “I want them to stop playing political games and lead our black communities to the real hope and change for which we longed from President Obama. Lead us to improving our communities, and lead us to fulfilling ourselves.”