US & Canada

Confederate flags found at US black church in Atlanta

Confederate flags sit in the back of a police car outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta - 30 July 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption The flag was heavily linked to a man accused of killing nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in June

US police are investigating after four Confederate flags were found on the grounds of a church near the Martin Luther King Jr Center in Atlanta.

Officials said security camera footage showed two white males placing the flags on the ground at the church.

They were discovered by maintenance workers on Thursday morning. One of the church's pastors said it was "a hateful act" meant to intimidate churchgoers.

The flag is very divisive in the US and seen as a symbol of slavery by critics.

Staff were disturbed when they came across the flags at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, according to the Reverend Shannon Jones.

"Our groundsmen were so upset, they took pictures and then they moved them," she told reporters.

She said the church has been holding a conference on the role of black churches in social justice issues this week.

'We will not be intimidated'

"We do have images of two white males placing those flags on the campus," police chief George Turner said at a news conference.

There were no more details about the suspects but Mr Turner said the video would be released to the public soon.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The church is near the the King Center complex on the eastern edge of downtown Atlanta

"We've seen this kind of ugliness before," he said, adding that it was disgusting but not surprising.

He said they had "good, strong physical evidence" and were not ruling it out from being a hate crime.

Rev Raphael Warnock, a senior pastor at the church, said: "It is a hateful act. I view it as an effort to intimidate us in some way, and we will not be intimidated."

Mr King once preached at the church in Georgia's capital.

The Confederate flag is the battle emblem of the southern states in the US Civil War, and its supporters today say it is an important part of southern heritage.

The backlash against it grew when nine black people were shot dead at a South Carolina church in June. The man charged with the killings, Dylann Roof, was pictured holding the flag.