When Robert Bonds found out First Baptist Church had been vandalized, the Gainesville resident got a bucket of paint and tried to cover the defacement. He knelt at the steps outside the building Saturday afternoon, painting over racially-charged graffiti.
If only erasing the memory were so easy.
Longtime church member Michael Leverette said it was “horrible” what happened overnight at the house of worship located at 1810 Martin Luther King Blvd.
“Nobody needs to be doing stuff like this,” Leverette. “Especially not in the house of God.”
Gainesville police are seeking information regarding the graffiti, which the owners of a neighboring business noticed early Saturday morning. Officers responded at 8 a.m. to the scene, finding “racial slurs and vulgarities.”
"Although disturbing, we do not feel that there are any direct threats associated with this crime," Gainesville Police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Holbrook wrote in a news release. "The racial slurs and vulgarities someone painted on the building at the First Baptist Church earlier today was intended to discourage or divide. Instead, it helped fuel empowerment and unity for the people of this great community."
After Gainesville Police showed up and collected evidence, Holbrook said employees of a neighboring store, Piedmont Tractor and Equipment, volunteered to pressure wash the spots where the vandals struck.
“They were eager to assist in the cleanup,” Holbrook said. “They demonstrated what Gainesville is truly about.”
Leverette said the owners of the business were “good samaritans and great neighbors,” and that the vandals were “ basically, just some mean folks.”
Despite cleanup efforts, the letters “KKK” were still somewhat visible through fresh layers of paint.
“It’s horrible that it happened, but we’re going to go on doing what we do,” said Leverette, who has attended the church for 40 years. “We’ve never had an issue like this before, and If anything, this will only make us stronger.”
The department is investigating this incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact officials at 770-534-5254.