A prominent social justice facility in Tennessee that has welcomed famed civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks was burned down Friday and defaced with white power jargon, according to NBC.
"While we don't know the names of the culprits, we know that the white power movement has been increasing and consolidating power across the South, across this nation, and globally," the Highlander Research and Education Center said in a statement Tuesday. "Since 2016, the white power movement has become more visible, and we’ve seen that manifest in various ways, both subtle and overt."
The statement continued: "Highlander is a sacred place built by communities of the most affected people and it has become a home to those who believe in freedom and collective liberation here in the south, across the U.S and around the world. Because of our history we are not surprised that this space, one where marginalized people working across sectors, geographies and identities show up consistently, has been repeatedly targeted over our 87 years of existence."
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Founded in 1932 under the name Highlander Folk School, Highlander Center is a grassroots organization that works alongside individuals advocating for justice, equality and sustainability, assisting their efforts to take action and forge their paths to success.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Coffey confirmed with The Knoxville News Sentinel that spray-painted graffiti was discovered at the scene of the blaze and described the image as a "hashtag symbol."
"It's not a traditional, throw-it-in-your-face symbol that you would immediately recognize," Coffey detailed. "But it has been used by individuals in the past. We have seen this symbol associated with different groups."
While the fire destroyed decades worth of artifacts poignant to the civil rights movement, the bulk of the building's keepsakes are in safe keeping.
Per The Knoxville News Sentinel, the Wisconsin Historical Society holds a majority of Highlander Center mementos from 1917 to 2005. These include 104 boxes of documents, 50 reels of 35mm film, over 1,600 tape recordings, more than 400 video recordings and approximately 22,000 photographs.
No one was physically hurt in the fire.
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