2 Georgia lawmakers involved in confrontation over noose meme

September 20, 2016 -  Atlanta - Georgia State Capitol, the Gold Dome.  Downtown Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia.  BOB ANDRES  /BANDRES@AJC.COM

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September 20, 2016 - Atlanta - Georgia State Capitol, the Gold Dome. Downtown Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Two Georgia lawmakers were involved in a tense confrontation at the state Capitol late Thursday over a social media post featuring a meme of a noose in the final hours of a legislative session shaped by nationwide protests over race and justice.

Georgia State Patrol officers in the building were summoned to the fourth floor to defuse the confrontation between Democratic state Rep. Erica Thomas and Republican state Rep. David Clark, though several witnesses said they weren’t necessary.

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It was triggered by a Facebook post by Clark that said he was in “utter shock” over remarks on social media by another Democratic lawmaker.

Someone responded to Clark's post with a meme depicting the garage pull rope formed as a noose that was found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace's garage this weekend.

Thomas said in an interview that she and another colleague demanded that Clark delete the comment after they saw it, and that she was upset when he told her he would “look into it” rather than committing to erasing the remark.

“It didn’t get physical. It was nothing like that. I was upset that he refused to do it,” said Thomas, who represents an Austell-based district. “Take it down. It’s just not OK. He hemmed and hawed. I couldn’t believe it. It’s too much for us to be dealing with here.”

Clark later deleted the meme, which was posted by one of his Facebook followers.

The Suwanee Republican said in a statement that his initial online remarks were a reaction to a “terrible post” by another lawmaker, state Rep. Park Cannon, that he felt compared the police to the Ku Klux Klan.

“I expressed my disapproval of the post online and Rep. Thomas approached me while visibly angry. She came at me in a very aggressive manner, making me think she wanted to hit me,” he said. “Another House member got in her way and the situation then de-escalated.”

Clark’s post condemned Cannon, D-Atlanta, for using the hashtag “#KlanAtTheCapitol” below a picture of Georgia State Patrol officers stationed outside the House chambers earlier this week.

Cannon's post was critical of a measure that increases criminal penalties for anyone convicted of committing a crime against a police officer or other first responder. She wrote it shortly after returning from the funeral of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot to death by a police officer last week.

Cannon declined to comment and has since deleted the post.

Several witnesses said the confrontation between the two lawmakers was tense but not threatening. State Rep. Doreen Carter, D-Lithonia, said Thomas and a colleague made Clark aware of the meme and that his response was infuriating to them.

“They wanted him to understand a noose on your Facebook page is never OK.”