After Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell) accused a man, via a Facebook Live video, of verbally attacking her and making racially charged statements, people have now begun to question the lawmaker’s accusations as a result of inconsistencies in her original story that have since emerged.
On Friday, July 19, Thomas shared a tearful, emotional Facebook video, describing an incident at a Publix in Mableton, GA, in which she was standing in an express line, nine months pregnant with her nine-year-old daughter, when a white man told her to, “go back where you came from.”
Thomas said that the man left out of the store and came back inside to berate her by saying, “You lazy son of a bitch, you need to go back where you came from.”
With the issue of the express line being the catalyst for the incident, Thomas acknowledged that she was over the 10-item limit, but said that due to her pregnancy she wasn’t able to stand for long periods of time.
The video of Thomas recounting the incident went viral immediately after its release and was trending on Twitter. It even gained its own hashtag, #IStandwithErica.
However, Thomas’ version of what actually occurred may not be completely accurate, which was revealed during a recent press conference on Saturday, July 20, when Thomas returned to the same Publix where the incident occurred to speak to reporters.
During the conference, Eric Sparkes, the man who allegedly verbally attacked Thomas made an impromptu appearance before reporters to dispute the allegations, claiming that he had returned to speak to Publix’s manager.
Sparkes admitted to cursing at the Georgia lawmaker for having too many items in the store’s express lane, but he vehemently denied ever saying, “go back where you came from.”
Sparkes, who identifies as Cuban, said, “I’m a Democrat. I will vote Democrat for the rest of my life. So to call me what she wants to believe, for her political purposes, to make it Black, white, brown or whatever, is so untrue.”
While he spoke to reporters, Thomas took the opportunity to confront Sparkes, saying he had “degraded and berated” her.
Subsequent to the on-camera confrontation, Thomas walked back her original story, taking back her once-firm claim that Sparkes told her to “go back where you came from.”
When directly asked what his exact words were, she said, “He said ‘go back,’ those types of words. I don’t want to say he said ‘go back to your country’ or ‘go back to where you came from’ but he was making those types of references is what I remember.”
This Monday, Thomas held another press conference at the State Capitol where she made it clear to reporters that she was not changing her story.
While several Democratic politicians have expressed their support for Thomas, a number of Republican officials are accusing her of creating a hoax for political purposes, similar to Sparkes’ claims.
In a recent Tweet, David Shafer, a former Republican lawmaker and current chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said that Thomas “should be sent home to Austell for manufacturing a #HateHoax.”
While police have not filed any charge in regard to the incident, Publix has released a statement stating that the company is “cooperating with local law enforcement as they look into the matter.”
Thomas’ attorney, Gerald Griggs, said his client was in “reasonable fear of receiving a violent injury” during the confrontation and says he’s planning to bring evidence directly to the county’s magistrate court if the police won’t file charges.
Griggs said Thomas is “resolute that she wants to stand as the voice of victims to not be afraid to come forward when incidents like this happen.”