(ATLANTA, GA, 8/31/17) — A coalition of Georgia civil rights organizations and activists today called on the leaders of the state legislature to publicly condemn Rep. Jason Spencer’s August 29 threat of racial violence against an African-American leader, to demand that he apologize for his remarks and to pledge to remove him from the Game, Fish & Parks Committee, which has influence over Confederate memorials.
On August 29, Rep. Spencer engaged in a Facebook debate with former Rep. LaDawn Jones about the status of Confederate monuments, including Georgia’s Jefferson Davis Memorial. During the discussion, Rep. Spencer reportedlu warned Ms. Jones that if she traveled to south Georgia to call for the removal of Confederate monuments, local residents would kill her and dispose of her body in a local swamp.
In a joint statement, the civil rights groups and activists also called on Rep. Spencer to apologize without reservation or to resign without delay:
“Every Georgia lawmaker should disavow Rep. Jason Spencer’s threatening remarks, and no Georgia lawmaker should accept his utterly unapologetic statement of faux regret.
“Indeed, the only thing more remarkable than the threatening remarks that Rep. Spencer leveled against former Rep. LaDawn Jones is the fact that Rep. Spencer has yet to apologize for making those threats.
“Although Rep. Spencer’s Aug. 30th statement expresses regret that others ‘misinterpreted’ what he said, his comments were as clear as they were dangerous. Rep. Spencer sought to intimidate an African-American woman by telling her that the residents of his district would murder her, and throw her body in a swamp, if she dared to visit the region and call for the removal of its Confederate monuments.
“What’s more: Rep. Spencer portrayed Georgians who are supposedly willing to commit such violence in a favorable light, writing, ‘I can guarantee you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive. People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama.’
“Even now, Rep. Spencer sees nothing wrong with what he wrote. His Aug. 30th statement says, ‘The racial division in our nation is terrible and is going to get worse if my colleague and I cannot have the kind of conversation we had on social media and will continue to have face-to-face.’
“On the contrary, the Facebook comments that Rep. Spencer made were vile, racially divisive, and quite possibly illegal. Nobody else of any profession, race, or religion would get away with making similar threats. Anyone else would be, at the least, fired, and at most, prosecuted.
“Republican and Democratic lawmakers must now unite to condemn Rep. Spencer’s remarks and demand that he sincerely apologizes. House leadership must also pledge to remove Rep. Spencer from the Game, Fish & Parks committee, for a politician who raises the specter of a lynching to protect Confederate monuments from criticism has no business making decisions about those monuments.
“Finally, if Rep. Spencer keeps refusing to retract and apologize for his remarks, Georgia lawmakers should demand his resignation from the Georgia General Assembly.
“This is not 1860 or even 1960. This is 2017. African-Americans must be able to exercise free speech in any part of this state, including Rep. Spencer’s district, without fear of being lynched. Even the threat of racial violence has no place in the State of Georgia, much less our legislature.
“As such, Rep. Spencer must apologize without reservation or resign without delay.”
* Co-Signing Organizations and Activists:
- American Civil Liberties Union, Georgia – Andrea Young, Executive Director
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Stephanie Cho, Executive Director
- CAIR-Georgia – Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Attorney & Executive Director
- The Georgia NAACP & Atlanta NAACP – Gerald Griggs, Attorney at Law
- Georgia Alliance for Social Justice – Janel Green, Co-Founder
- Project South – Azadeh Shashahani, Legal Aid & Advocacy Director
- Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson, former President, The Georgia NAACP