AUSTIN, Texas - People who live in Austin’s Montopolis area are shocked and saddened after a swastika was painted at the site of a historic black school. The symbol of hate appeared just days before the neighborhood’s Juneteenth celebration.
"They pull up to the sign, and they see the vandalism out here," said Noe Elias, president of the Montopolis Neighborhood Association.
Tuesday, a volunteer with the organization Montopolis Proud discovered a swastika painted outside what was once a Black-only school.
"Oh, it took my breath away. I've been living in this community all my life. I've never seen that," said Carol Mae Williams, founder of Montopolis Proud.
The building, located on Montopolis Drive just south of US-183, was known as the Montopolis Negro School from the late 1930s until the early 1960s.
"It brings tears to me," said Williams’ mother, Myrtle Robinson, who attended the school in the early 1940s. "Oh, it changed so much, I can't even remember. Don't want to remember some of it."
Williams says to see a symbol of hate, all these decades later, is a gut punch.
"You know, we've come a long way," said Williams. "And when we see something like that, you know what it does is it takes us back. I don't want to go back there."
Neighbors say this was especially hurtful, given the location at a historic school, and the timing, right before Juneteenth.
"I’m not sure if that was the intention, if they know exactly what the property is or if they know that we’re holding an event here on Monday. But, you know, it seems connected, and it does hurt more," said Elias.
Kimberly McNeeley, director of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, which owns the Montopolis property, said in a statement:
"Hate symbols were discovered at a number of park spaces this weekend. The Department has no tolerance for hate and swiftly responds to remove the graffiti and repair vandalism. Austin Parks and Recreation facilities welcome all community members, and we work to ensure the spaces are welcoming."
"Them kind of people, you got to pray for them," said Robinson.
The hateful symbol has been painted over. Now, the community is hurt, but undeterred.
"It actually, you know, brings us closer together," said Elias.
"We’re going forward. We're here to celebrate," said Williams.
"If anybody thinks this will intimidate anybody in our community, I think they will be sorely disappointed," said Dr. Fred McGhee, president of the Montopolis Community Development Corporation.
And to whoever did this, Williams has this message.
"Smile more than you cry. Give more than you take. Love more than you hate," said Williams.
If anyone has any information on who did this, call the Austin Police Department.