"This is Georgia's history. #DealWithIt," Republican state legislator Jason Spencer wrote.
Jason Spencer, a Republican state legislator in Georgia, made veiled threats to a former colleague on Facebook after she commented on a photo of him with a Confederate monument earlier this week.
"Passing through South Georgia on my way back. Stopped by another state historic site, the Jefferson Davis memorial site," Spencer wrote in his original post, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The memorial commemorates the President of the Confederate States and his "hopes for a new nation" at the site where he was captured. "This is Georgia's history. #DealWithIt," the post ended.
LaDawn Jones, a former Georgia lawmaker and current attorney, criticized Spencer's support of the monument and told him to enjoy it "before it is torn down," in a comment on the post. She also questioned whether state tax dollars were paying for the memorial.
Spencer responded that he sits on the committee that has jurisdiction over the monuments, so "it's not going anywhere." He then began directing disturbing statements at Jones and cautioning her against traveling to south Georgia.
"Continue your quixotic journey into South Georgia and it will not be pleasant," he wrote. "The truth. Not a warning. The folks won't put up with it like they do in Atlanta. It best you move on [sic]."
Jones responded that she wasn't afraid. "Yea put your hoods and your tiki torches away," she wrote, alluding to the white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville earlier this month. "We will not let you hide hate behind heritage."
"I can guarantee you won't be met with torches but something a lot more definitive," Spencer fired back. "People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama." Responding to another commenter who appeared to agree with him, Spencer added, "They will go missing in the Okefenokee. Too many necks they are red around here. Don't say I didn't warn you about 'em."
In an interview with Broadly, Jones explained that she and Spencer had been seat mates in the Georgia legislature before she left the general assembly. "Having very tense conversations was not foreign to us," she said, although they usually didn't end with the suggestion that she would "go missing."
"I can guarantee you won't be met with torches but something a lot more definitive."
Spencer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was "just trying to keep [Jones] 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."
But Jones said that his comments seemed like an "endorsement" of violence. "What was concerning to me was his level of comfort with that being a norm," she explained. "The warning shouldn't be to me. The warning should be to the ignorant people who think that that kind of action is appropriate."
She added that what Spencer implied in his post reflects the true nature of Confederate memorials. "The history behind these monuments makes it clear that they were all put into place around Jim Crow and after Brown v. the Board of Education as a sign of exactly what Rep. Spencer was trying to say: We still believe in what these historical figures believe, and if you dare to do anything here's your reminder of who we are and how we feel," she said. "These monuments signaled to people to watch out and know your place."
In 2016, while Jones was in the Georgia legislature, she proposed a bill to remove all Confederate monuments from state property except for the one carved into Stone Mountain. She had proposed that rather than serving as a memorial for Confederate soldiers, Stone Mountain would be dedicated to telling the full story of the Civil War era, but the bill did not gain any traction. She hopes that current events will spur the government to renew efforts to confront the state's history and racism.
"Charlottesville, Dylann Roof, and statements like this [are] an indication that leadership needs to take control of this conversation," Jones said.