Beliefs Culture Institutions Politics

Confederate flags placed outside MLK’s Atlanta church

A Confederate battle flag flies at the grave of L.S. Axson, a soldier in the Confederate States Army in the U.S. Civil War, in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina on June 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONFEDERATE-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 23, 2015.
A Confederate battle flag flies at the grave of L.S. Axson, a soldier in the Confederate States Army in the U.S. Civil War, in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina on June 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONFEDERATE-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 23, 2015.

A Confederate battle flag flies at the grave of L.S. Axson, a soldier in the Confederate States Army in the U.S. Civil War, in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina on June 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONFEDERATE-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 23, 2015.

ATLANTA — Four Confederate flags were placed outside of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church here Thursday. Authorities said they are looking for two white men who were caught on surveillance video.

Authorities have images of the men placing the flags outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said Atlanta Police Chief George Turner.

Local authorities are working with federal authorities and have not determined what charges might be levied, he said. They have not ruled out a hate crime, Turner said. An officer from the Atlanta FBI’s joint terrorism task force was on the scene “to better determine if any specific threats were received” and to provide support to Atlanta police, FBI Special Agent Steve Emmett said in an email.


READ: Activist who took down Confederate flag drew on her faith


Authorities also are trying to determine whether the flags were placed on federal or church property.

King preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue, once a bustling center of commerce for Atlanta’s African-American businesses and residents. The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the historic church and its new building — where congregants now meet and where the flags were placed — are a short walk from the home of King’s grandparents, where the late civil rights leader lived for the first 12 years of his life.

The incident comes weeks after controversy surrounding the Confederate flag after the fatal shooting of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., on June. 17. Dylan Roof, the white 21-year-old suspect had posted photos of himself online posing with Confederate flags.


READ: End the religion of the Confederate flag


The shooting prompted South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to call for the removal of the flag from the Statehouse grounds. The flag — a symbol of slavery and the Old South — was removed on July 10.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, said leaving the flags near the church was a message of hate, not heritage.

“It is a hateful act,” he said. “I view it as an effort to intimidate us in some way, and we will not be intimidated.”

Atlanta police officer Gary Wade said a maintenance worker discovered the flags at 6 a.m. Thursday and notified the National Park Service, which operates The King Center.


READ: Why it was easy for Republicans to flip on Confederate flag issue


“Our grounds men were so upset, they took pictures and then they moved them,” said the Rev. Shanan Jones of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The flags weren’t stuck in the ground but instead set neatly on top of it. One was placed on the ground near a bell tower and poster that said: “Black Lives Matter.” The slogan has become part of a movement of civil rights supporters who say police treat blacks unfairly.

A conference on the role on black churches in social justice issues has been going on in Ebenezer’s facilities. Warnock said the hateful act only strengthens their resolve, and he promised the city would remain peaceful.

(This story was written by WXIA-TV, Atlanta. Contributing: The Associated Press)

About the author

USA Today Network

7 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • “They have not ruled out a hate crime..”

    The placement of these flags on the church grounds is frightening, intimidating and disgusting. Some Americans still have a lot to learn, even the liberal ones.

    But in America people have the right to free speech. Offensive as it is, the flags are legal – they are just speech. It would be as if some Westboro protestors left their offensive placards against homosexuals on a gay man’s lawn.
    Ugly and intimidating for sure.

    So far, the only broken law looks like trespassing. But that is enough to arrest them and get their names for some public shaming.

  • This appears to be some moral dwarf’s idea of how to combat the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, which was built on the perverse lie that big-city police forces are deliberately seeking to kill black people.

    The way to combat that campaign is by a broader campaign of all races together, in one large demonstration in our nation’s capital, called “All Lives Matter.”

    I’m sure that if a coalition of organizations put such a demonstration together, it would be at least as big as Dr. King’s famed March on Washington in 1963…..it would be a similarly beautiful expression of unity and love.

  • Jack – I agree with you on the “moral dwarf” thing. However, you go on to build a straw man you can handily burn down with a mawkish reference to some multiculural chimera.

    The black lives matter movement is not predicated on the silly idea “that big-city police forces are deliberately seeking to kill black people.” No one says this, and it isn’t even implied. The facts are simple: people of color are disproportionately targeted for law enforcement, and encounters with police are more likely to lead to death or serious injury for a person of color. These are facts. No deliberately murderous police required.

    As for “all lives matter,” that’s a red herring. Just because someone says “black lives matter” doesn’t mean other lives don’t. Does fighting cancer, MS, or Alzheimer’s mean other diseases don’t matter? Of course not. Find me a leader within that movement who says ONLY black lives matter, to the exclusion of all others, and get back to me. I’ll wait.

  • J.C., I’d agree with you if you were correct, because white racism has harmed people of color and our entire country for centuries and its legacy haunts us still.

    But the “black-lives-matter” movement is a fraud, plain and simple. It emerged out of a series of lies in which thugs getting into encounters with police were lionized by political preachers as heroes. People who pick fights with cops and then get killed aren’t heroes. The real heroes are those in poor areas who stand up to gangs, stand up to drug dealers, stand up for civility and truth, and risk their lives for it.

ADVERTISEMENTs