AUSTIN, Texas - Austin police say approximately 15 gravesites at a historic African American cemetery in East Austin have been vandalized. Police say they were notified just after 10 a.m. Monday that more than a dozen headstones had been spray painted.
A stone marking the gravesite of the Carson family was among those defaced.
Their extended family member Ryan Green came to the cemetery Tuesday to survey the damage. “It's really sad that they would even want to mess with people that aren't even gonna mess with them.” he said.
Green’s grandmother and great grandmothers are also buried at the cemetery. For him, Evergreen is a place to connect. “Even though I can't hear them physically, spiritually, I feel like I can.”
Tuesday, he said he was able to “breathe a sigh of relief,” seeing that his grandmother and great grandmother's stones remained untouched. “I was overjoyed,” he explained. Adding, “I went up, I was like ‘y’all good! y’all alright! So I ain't got nothing to worry about.’ So, I was happy.”
Harrison Eppright of Visit Austin, says Evergreen became the city's first municipally operated African American cemetery in 1926.
The cemetery means a lot, it's a memorial. It’s a place where people can come and say goodbye to loved ones. Eppright says he comes to the cemetery to talk to his own parents who are buried there.
“It's a very important part of African American culture,” he stated.
Eppright believes the vandalism is a hate crime. "It’s hatred, pure and simple. It's hatred. It's desecration for the dead, it's also disrespect for the living and it's just, it is a form of bullying.”
Eppright gave FOX 7 Austin this message for the person, or persons responsible: “You’re not going to get away with this. That instead of driving a wedge in the community, you brought people together.”
Austin police say they're investigating, and characterize the graffiti as religious.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Capital Area Crime Stoppers.
“You don't wanna point fingers because you really don't know. Was it kids or is it a political move? Is it a racial thing, or is it kids?” said Green.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler visited the cemetery with Austin Justice Coalition leader Chas Moore, and Eppright Tuesday. “It's hard to look at an event like this absent the context of what's happening all around us. We just need everybody to really take a breath, to find a moment to hug one another,” he said.