Four Confederate flags were discovered this morning by the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the flags were found beneath a poster that reads, "BLACK LIVES MATTER, HANDS UP." They were removed by police around 9:30 a.m. local time. The church's Reverend Shannon Jones said that a conference on the role black churches play in fighting injustice was happening onsite at the time of the incident.
The flags were found at 6 a.m. local time by a grounds worker, the Associated Press reports. Officials are reviewing security footage, and conducting an investigation into the event.
The historic site includes the visitor center, near where the flags were found, in addition to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth home and a commemorative garden, and is run by the National Park Service.
The incident comes just weeks after nine black churchgoers were killed by a white shooter in a South Carolina church, and follows an upswell in national condemnation of the Confederate flag. Defenders of the flag say its a symbol of heritage, not hate. But that argument has weakened after photos emerged of the shooter, Dylann Roof, posing with Confederate license plates.
In Atlanta, reactions to the flags were strong. Per AJC:
Tracey Jackson, a 45-year-old from Atlanta who lives near the historic church, said: “This breaks my heart. It’s just taking the flag to another level. That flag represents what happened in the past. And too many people are holding on to that past. It just hurts.”
Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, a senior pastor at the Church, spoke about the incident in a press conference earlier today:
The Church may release a statement on the incident later today.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.