Unknown vandals spray-painted more than a dozen headstones in a historically Black cemetery in Texas.
The Austin Office of Parks and Recreation told KVUE 15 headstones in Evergreen Cemetery were tagged over the weekend before being discovered on Monday, Sept. 21. All the headstones were covered in blue paint with various messages including “KIRK” and “AIDS.” Others were tagged with an 8 turned on its side and the names of archangels from the Bible, per The Austin American-Statesman.
The cemetery, founded in 1926, was the first municipal graveyard dedicated to Black Austin residents. Before its establishment, African-American families buried their dead in private plots and community cemeteries. About 12,000 people are interred in Evergreen, reported The American-Statesman.
Residents, some with loved ones buried there, are insulted by the graffiti.
“At the end of the day, the Black community is all damaged. We’re all damaged because of this,” Victor Reed, told KVUE. His grandfather is resting in the cemetery.
“We got them disgracing our dead,” Reed added. “That’s just a sad sight, what’s going on in this city. It’s not only tombstones, it’s the behavior that’s been brought to this city – and it’s a sore. This is another assault on the Black person in this city and no one seems like they want to address these issues and I’m wondering why.”
“This is sad and heartbreaking. I have a lot of loved ones buried here, so I think it’s very disrespectful, it’s evil, it’s calculated,” Rebecca More told The American Statesman.
“My mother is here, I have uncles here,” Roy Jones shared with CBS Austin. “You wouldn’t want nobody to do that to your family.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, the department of Parks and Recreation sent a crew to Evergreen to scrub the paint off the grave markers. Civilians also showed up to help, but they were not allowed to participate because they were not employed by the city.
“We were taking initiative to clean up the cemetery, and it was like a slap in the face,” said Nyeka Arnold, administrative and fundraising director of the Black Austin Coalition. A headstone of one of her relatives was defaced by the vandals.
“When this incident happened, it brought East Austin out,” she added. “We’re still here, you just don’t see us because we’re surrounded by white people and white buildings, but we’re still here,”
Austin Police is investigating the incident.