A white Republican member of the Georgia Legislature issued a controversial warning to a black former colleague who criticized his support of Confederate monuments, suggesting those who support the removal of Civil War landmarks could “go missing.”
The heated exchange began when State Rep. Jason Spencer, who represents a district in southern Georgia, posted a now-deleted Facebook photo of himself next to a memorial of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which published a screengrab of their conversartion.
LaDawn Jones, who sat alongside Spencer in the Georgia House of Representatives for four years until 2016 and has advocated for removing Confederate memorials, then replied that her former colleague should “get it in … before it is torn down.”
The two went back and forth, reaching a low point when Spencer told Jones — an attorney and Democrat — that if she and others kept up their fight to rid the state of Confederate monuments, “I cant guarantee you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive.”
He later added the people who want the statues gone “will go missing in the Okefenokee,” referring to a swamp and national wildlife refuge in southern Georgia. “To many necks they are red around here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Jones posted a retort to his comments, writing, “Sounds like a threat of physical violence…is that what we are doing now? Desperate times call for desperate measures, huh? Afraid of what is going to happen in southern GA? I saw those white supremacist crying when s— really hit the fan. See I won’t threaten your safety. I don’t have to.”
Spencer told Atlanta Journal-Constitution via text that his words were not meant as a threat but rather a “warning to her of how people can behave about this issue.”
“She is from Atlanta – and the rest of Georgia sees this issue very differently,” he said. “Just trying to keep her safe if she decided to come down and raise hell about the memorial in the back yards of folks who will see this as an unwelcome aggression from the left.”
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Their heated exchange happened less than three weeks after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, shocked and horrified the nation, and renewed calls to take down controversial monuments and symbols that hearken back to the country’s legacy of slavery.
Spencer also released a statement on Wednesday through Facebook saying that he regretted his “choice of words” to Jones.
“I was trying to warn her that there really are people who would harm others over the issue,” he wrote. “In light of the recent tragic murder of a woman in Charlottesville, I believe that a certain degree of caution is necessary. I still do.”
Meanwhile, Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the pair are longtime frenemies, which put their argument into perspective.
“If that had come from anybody else, I’d take it as a serious threat,” she said.
Still, Jones admitted the exchange left her feeling “concerned … because if that’s representative of what people in south Georgia think, then yikes.”