Four rebel Confederate battle flags were found on the grounds of a church near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta on Thursday, and police and federal authorities were investigating.
Police said a maintenance worker discovered the flags at 6 a.m. Thursday and notified the National Park Service, which operates The King Center, a resource center and memorial near the late civil rights leader’s childhood home.
After the white suspect in last month’s massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston appeared in photos waving Confederate flags, a movement was renewed to remove the rebel flag from the public sphere around the South. The flag was flown by armies of the secessionist pro-slavery Confederacy during the Civil War and is claimed by some white southerners as a symbol of regional and ancestral pride. It has also been used by white supremacists and is seen by many African-Americans and as a symbol of oppression.
Groundskeepers were disturbed to see the flags in the morning, the Rev. Shannon Jones of Ebenezer Baptist Church said.
No one saw who placed the flags, which weren’t stuck in the ground but instead set neatly on top of it, police said. A security guard saw a suspicious vehicle across the street from the church Wednesday night, but it wasn’t clear whether that was related.
A conference on the role on black churches in social justice issues has been going on in Ebenezer’s facilities, Jones said.
King once preached at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is near the new church where the congregation now meets and where the flags were placed.
The center and church are a short walk from the home of Martin Luther King Jr.’s maternal grandparents, where King lived for the first 12 years of his life.