State representative says she was 'scared for her life' during Publix incident

ATLANTA — Some Georgia Republicans are calling for a Democratic state lawmaker to step down if her accusations of experiencing racism in a grocery store prove false.

State Rep. Erica Thomas said she stands by her claims and wants police to press charges.

Cobb County police told Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot that they are still trying to figure out exactly what happened inside the Publix store. They said they are reviewing security camera video.

But the worlds of politics and social media didn’t wait. Both waded right into the controversy.


Erica Thomas news conference | Eric Sparkes speaks with Channel 2

Thomas claims Eric Sparkes told her to go back to where she came from, a reference to a controversial tweet by President Donald Trump.

After appearing to backtrack her initial statement, Thomas went on camera Monday morning and doubled down on her accusation.

[READ: State lawmaker, man she accused of verbally harassing her confront each other]

“I said, ‘Are you really going to argue with me?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I am,’ and he kept cursing at me, kept berating me,” Thomas said. "I was embarrassed, and I was scared for my life."

Sparkes spoke to Thomas in front of our cameras Saturday, and while admitting he cursed at her, he denied telling her to go back anywhere.

He said he was upset because she had too many items in an express checkout lane.


“I called you a lazy (expletive). That’s the worst thing I said,” Sparkes said.

Thomas' tearful Facebook post describing what she said happened to her inside the Mableton grocery store went viral and spawned a trending social media hashtag, #IStandWithErica, which has been passed along by actors, Georgia politicians and a Democratic presidential candidate.

The Georgia Democratic Party issued a statement, saying:

“We stand with you Erica Thomas. Trump’s racist rhetoric is emboldening hate across Georgia and our country.”

Republicans took to social media, as well, with some demanding Thomas step down if a police investigation proves she lied.

“I think this thing has been grossly over-politicized. I mean, you can’t turn around at all without someone on the left accusing a Republican of being a racist,” said Cobb County GOP Chair Jason Shepherd.

Republicans pushed their own hashtag: #HateHoax.

"As a tactic, it will be successful," said Channel 2 Action News political analyst Bill Crane.

Crane told Elliot, that in today’s highly charged political climate, where points can be made on social media, people should expect to see more of this kind of politics from both sides.

“We will see this, I think unfortunately, play out in multiple locations over the course of the 2020 cycle because it energizes people,” Crane said.

On Monday, Elliot spoke with Sparkes who said he’s working with an attorney to possibly file a defamation lawsuit against Thomas.

Cobb County police said they’re looking at surveillance camera video to figure out what really happened.