ATLANTA — The Emory Autism Center has become the target of several crimes, including burglary and vandalism, including graffiti of racial slurs and swastikas.
An Emory police report mentions burglary, a vandalized building, swastikas and racial slurs written in the hallways and office space, vandalized vending machines, a shattered glass door and a large rock several feet away.
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The area where racial slurs were reportedly written along the walls are near the workspace occupied by two African-American women and a swastika was in a hallway near a Jewish man’s office.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne spoke to a parent who says there’s a deeper hurt.
“They serve everyone and I don’t understand why someone would vandalize a place that’s really trying to do good work and trying to help and make a difference,” said Donna Johnson, whose 23-year-old daughter is a patient at Emory Autism Center.
Johnson says her the center has served her daughter for most of her life and it’s a place of help, so she is sad to learn it has been targeted with symbols of hate.
“It breaks my heart, it really breaks my heart,” she said.
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Employees discovered the vandalism inside the center Monday morning.
An email statement from Emory University Spokesperson Laura Diamond said in part,
“staff members arrived to discover graffiti depicting racial slurs and swastikas and damage to physical property. The EAC is working closely with the Emory University Police Department to investigate this incident. In a message emailed to faculty and staff, university leaders stated that: “These acts of racism and antisemitism are painful for all of us at the EAC and in the Emory community. They will not be tolerated, and every effort will be made to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Former DeKalb District Attorney Robert James says this crime could fall under the jurisdiction of Georgia’s new hate crime statute.
“As long as there are people that would do something like this, our laws have to be constructed in such a way that they can be adequately addressed,” he said. “I believe this is why [the hate crime statute] was drafted and passed in the first place, to address conduct like this.”
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“Our children, many of them you know they don’t see the world as we experience it. They don’t understand what these symbols and words mean and it makes me sad,” said Johnson.
The Emory Autism Center is providing resources to support faculty, staff, patients and their families.
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