An exchange between a white Republican member of Georgia's state legislature and his former black colleague about the fate of Confederate monuments is drawing heavy scrutiny due to his controversial warning. Less than a month after a woman was killed by a man attending a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Georgia Rep. Jason Spencer warned a former black colleague who was criticizing his support of Confederate monuments that those trying to "erase history" by removing such memorials would "go missing."
In a tense exchange over Facebook, Spencer told former state Rep. LaDawn Jones, who served an Atlanta-based district from 2012 to 2016, to "move on" from calling for the removal of Confederate monuments. Jones had commented on a series of three pictures Spencer had posted of the Jefferson Davis Memorial to his Facebook page along with the caption, "This is Georgia's history. #DealWithIt."
"Yes, get it in... before it is torn down," Jones had written in a comment. "Take a photo – you won't be in the legislature forever. #flagGONE #confederatestatuesLEAVING #hateDONE," she said in a separate comment posted minutes later.
Spencer then warned Jones "won't be met with torches but [with] something a lot more definitive" as "people in South Georgia are people of action, not drama." He went on to caution that anyone attempting to take down Confederate monuments "will go missing."
"Too many necks they are red around here," Spencer wrote. "Don't say I didn't warn you about 'em."
"Sounds like a threat of physical violence," Jones wrote in response. "Desperate times call for desperate measures, huh?"
In a statement issued Wednesday, Spencer said he regretted that his choice of words "has been misinterpreted as a threat" to those advocating for the removal of Confederate statues.
"I was trying to warn her that there really are people who would harm others over the issue," Spencer said in the statement. "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."
Spencer also said he respected Jones' passion and willingness to engage in debate and added he felt "the racial division in our nation" would only get "worse" if "my colleague and I cannot have the kind of conversation we had." He also condemned "racism, 'white supremacy' and any group from the yesterday's Klan to today's neo-Nazis."
Jones told the Washington Post, that though Spencer's comments "absolutely and completely crossed the line," she "personally did not feel threatened." According to the former Democratic member of Georgia's House of Representatives, this is not the first time a difference of opinion between Jones and Spencer has escalated into a tense verbal exchange. Jones told the Post she and Spencer have, on many occasions, "had to walk away from each other because the debate was so intense."
Spencer's post appears to have been deleted from his Facebook, but was saved via a screenshot by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.