ENSLEY, Ala. (WIAT) — A racist banner and two swastikas have been found painted on an abandoned hospital in Ensley in a predominantly African American neighborhood.
The incident has unnerved residents and prompted community leaders to speak out and reach out to CBS42.
At the back of the Holy Family Community Hospital, which has sat abandoned for about 40 years, the banner reads “One Nation Against Invasion” and is signed the Patriot Front, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a white nationalist hate group.
“The fact that they would come into a Black community and put their calling card on a building is very disgusting,” said resident and business owner Alexander Brewer.
Brewer joins a number of neighbors in Tuxedo Court pushing back against what they describe as a message of hate and racism. They believe someone broke into the property a few weeks ago and painted the images.
They are calling for the perpetrators to be caught, and they emphasized that hate has no place there.
“Is it a form of intimidation? Or is it a form of a statement that they’re making that says that ‘you’re reachable by us … we can get you wherever you are,'” Brewer said.
“It was appalling,” said community activist John Meehan.
Meehan has lived in the area his whole life, and he first noticed the sign on Saturday while driving down I-59. Then, he said he alerted others and called police.
“This is 2023, this is not the 1960s. For a group like this to come in our community that wants to start hate, we’re not gonna tolerate it,” Meehan said.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Patriot Front targets communities of color and plants signs like this around the country to make the group seem larger and more influential than it actually is.
“They idolize Adolph Hitler, they share violent imagery about Black Americans, migrants, the LGBTQ community and Jewish people, all in bigoted views about these groups,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, deputy director of Research, Reporting and Analysis for the Intelligence Project at the SPLC.
Community elders also weighed in on what’s happening, citing how this area is steeped in segregation and civil rights history.
“I’m very concerned about the neighborhood … I hated to see something like this especially in the Black neighborhood. That don’t need to be in nobody neighborhood — that don’t need to be going on because we have enough in this world going on now besides something like that,” said longtime resident Roy Frost.
The hospital is on private property, owned by Randal Scott with the Scott Contracting Company. Frost said he spoke with him regarding the sign, and Scott replied that he would take care of it this week. CBS42 reached out to Scott but didn’t hear back.
CBS42 also contacted the office of Mayor Randall Woodfin regarding the incident, and they provided the below statement:
“The city has been very responsive in removing such imagery from public rights of way. When placed on private property, the owner is responsible for addressing the matter. The city has been active in assisting in notification to property owners.”
While the residents are united in their quest to get the sign and symbols gone, in the meantime, they sent their own message.
“As a community we stand strong here … See something say something, patrol your own neighborhoods, keep a vigilant eye on your neighbor to make sure nothing like this happens again,” Brewer said.