ATLANTA — Confederate battle flags were found Thursday morning on the grounds of Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Center in Atlanta, police and church officials said.
Ebenezer Baptist Church is best known as the church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized and where he, along with his father, served as a pastor. The King Center is a historical site adjacent to the church.
“This act by a cowardly and misguided individual or individuals is provocative to say the least,” said the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer.
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said surveillance video shows two white males placing the flags. Turner said Atlanta police are working with federal partners, the National Park Service, Joint Terrorism Task Force and Atlanta’s Homeland Security Unit. Police said they may release the surveillance video to the public.
Described by many as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia have often been at the nexus of race tensions in America, including a movement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, which had been put there in the 1950s — many say as a symbol of support for segregation and protest against the civil rights movement.
The flag was changed in 2001, but still incorporated a very small version emblem. Then in 2003, the emblem was completely removed. The new flag looks very much like the “Stars and Bars,” another symbol — though not as well known today — of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
“It was disturbing and sickening but, unfortunately, not very surprising. This is the church of Martin Luther King, Jr. We’ve seen this type of ugliness before. Not just in the 1960s, but in recent years as well,” said Warnock.