Black lawmakers ask GBI to investigate Georgia Republican’s ‘go missing’ comment

State Rep. Jason Spencer reviews legislation. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus has asked state police to launch an investigation of a Georgia Republican who warned his Democratic former colleague she could “go missing in the Okefenokee” over her calls to tear down Civil War monuments.

State Sen. Lester Jackson, the caucus chairman, said state Rep. Jason Spencer’s “behavior cannot and will not be accepted or tolerated” and urged the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to probe “the threat of physical violence ” from the lawmaker.

A GBI spokeswoman said the agency had not yet opened an investigation.

Spencer is facing a growing number of calls to resign after his sharp-edged comments on Facebook to LaDawn Jones, a Democrat who was once his seat-mate in the Georgia Legislature.

Spencer warned Jones she won’t be “met with torches but something a lot more definitive” and that “people in South Georgia are people of action, not drama.”

“Too many necks they are red around here,” he wrote in a post since taken down from public view. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ’em.”

In a lengthy statement last week, Spencer did not offer an apology but instead said he regretted that his comments were “misrepresented as a threat against her.”

More: Georgia gears up for fraught legislative debate on Civil War monuments

Other prominent groups and Democratic leaders have also called for sanctions against Spencer. A coalition that includes the ACLU’s Georgia chapter and the Georgia NAACP said Spencer should apologize or resign. Both Democratic candidates for governor – state Rep. Stacey Evans and former state Rep. Stacey Abrams – have condemned Spencer.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said Spencer’s remarks were “worthy of censure.” And Vincent Fort, a former state senator who is running for Atlanta mayor, said the GBI should probe the comments.

“When I got a threat like that, I called the GBI,” he said. “That kind of threat warrants it.”

Jones, who sat next to Spencer during her four years in the Georgia House, said in an interview she didn’t feel threatened by Spencer’s comments but that she was “concerned” by his reaction.

“Because if that’s representative of what people in south Georgia think,” she said, “then yikes.”

Spencer, who represents a southeast Georgia district, cast his words as a “warning to her of how people can behave about this issue.”

“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,” he said in a text message.

Here is the full statement from the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus:

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) is very disappointed by the threat of physical violence made via Facebook by a member of the Georgia General Assembly on August 29, 2017. As members of a body that represents the interests of all Georgia constituents, we understand we bring multiple viewpoints to the Gold Dome. However, there is an expectation to be professional and respectful as we advance those viewpoints.

While it is understood that on occasion there will be strong, polar-opposite positions on sensitive issues affecting the citizens of Georgia, threats of physical violence and words of intimidation from a member of the Georgia General Assembly or anyone is not acceptable under any circumstances.

This behavior cannot and will not be accepted or tolerated. The GLBC will neither condone nor allow threats to any citizen of this great state of Georgia by anyone. We have contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and asked for an investigation of the threats made.

This incident and others we have witnessed in Georgia and around the country require a civil discourse in which all members of our communities can be heard. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, in collaboration with other civic leaders, will host a series of Listening Sessions around the state to engage constituents in a conversation about race, respect, and accountability.

The future of Georgia hinges on our ability to work together. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus looks forward to having these community conversations with our constituents as well as our colleagues under the Gold Dome.


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