A string of hate-inspired vandalisms targeting churches in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, over the past few months is bringing local religious and political leaders together.
An incident at Kingdom Celebration Center on Monday morning marked the ninth time since May that a church in the county has been vandalized, according to Police Chief Amal Awad. Five of the other incidents occurred at another church just two miles away.
During the most recent act of vandalism at the church, which is located on Route 175 in Gambrills, someone trashed the property and wrote the N-word followed by the words “in jail,” an apparent reference to Bishop Antonio Palmer, who leads the congregation at the church.
Earlier this year, Palmer testified before the Anne Arundel County Council during the debate about new police accountability rules, admitting he served time in prison decades ago. Since then, he says he found religion and turned his life around, helping to lead the church to become a positive presence in the community.
“This is an attack on the psyche, morale and momentum of a church that’s about doing good for all men,” said Palmer during an event Tuesday with county officials and church leaders. “Make no mistakes about it. No matter how small the graffiti is, the trespasser left a huge, clear message of racism and hate. I’m quite sure that they desired to inflict harm on myself and members of the African-American community.”
Palmer described the N-word as “a slur of hatred with an undertone of brooding violence.”
“There is no place, no place for hate here in Anne Arundel County,” Awad said. “None. Especially on the sacred grounds of a place of worship.”
The police chief said she was sickened by the string of incidents and that the police department takes investigation into these kinds of incidents seriously.
“We denounce all forms of hatred,” Awad said. “This vile act is not representative of many good people who call Anne Arundel County home. And we will not be discouraged by your hatred, whoever you are. We are encouraged to not only identify and arrest you, but to continue the good work these humble caretakers of our community deliver every day.”
County Executive Steuart Pittman also delivered pointed comments to the perpetrator.
“I just want to say, to whoever wrote that, the leader of this church is a far, far better person than you are today,” said Pittman. “But, the leader of this church has invited you to do what he did: Get your life together.”