Confederate Flags Placed At Ebenezer Church Near MLK Center

WABE reporter Lisa Hagen describes the incident on “A Closer Look.”

Federal authorities and police are investigating after four Confederate battle flags were found on the grounds of the Ebenezer Baptist Church near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta.

Atlanta Police Officer Gary Wade says a maintenance worker discovered the flags at 6 a.m. Thursday and notified the National Park Service, which operates the nearby King Center. Wade says no one saw who placed the flags, which weren’t stuck in the ground but instead set neatly on top of it.

Wade says a security guard saw a suspicious vehicle across the street from the church Wednesday night, but it wasn’t clear whether that was related.

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.

A pastor is calling the placing of Confederate flags near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta a “hateful act,” and police say they aren’t ruling out a hate crime.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church near the center, said Thursday at a news conference hours after the flags were found: “It is a hateful act. I view it as an effort to intimidate us in some way, and we will not be intimidated.”

Atlanta police Chief George Turner says officials are not ruling out a hate crime as they seek two white males who were seen on a surveillance video placing the flags on the ground.

Turner said Thursday at a news conference: “We do have images of two white males placing those flags on the campus.” He said he doesn’t know their ages, and he didn’t give other details.

Turner says the video will be released soon.

Turner called the placing of the flags disgusting but not surprising. He said: “We’ve seen this kind of ugliness before.” Officials say Confederate flags have been placed on the center’s campus before, including at King’s tomb.

Turner says Atlanta police are working with federal officials to find the men. He says authorities have “good, strong physical evidence.”