Wednesday, January 8 2014 5:50 PM EST2014-01-08 22:50:22 GMT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Residents in and around the Cleveland Court Housing Community in Montgomery have a strong message for vandals who destroyed the former home of Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks. They say the vandalism is a total disregard for the value of a housing project that was soon to be renovated, as well as Parks, an icon in the Civil Rights movement.
"This is a shame and I'm really saddened and hurt that something like this would actually take place in our community after we fought so hard to try and turn our community around and bring it back up," Montgomery resident Charles Dillihay said. Dillihay and other concerned neighbors, politicians and community activist like Doris Crenshaw came together to make a stand and reflect on the significance of Rosa Parks' Apartment, now a mini-museum.
Montgomery Housing Authority officials say the vandalism happened sometime between Friday and Monday and was discovered at the beginning of the week when officials, on site clearing out the office, discovered broken windows in several units.
Thieves made entry and destroyed plumbing and gutted several units looking for copper. Officials say thieves pulled a truck into a vacant lot behind Cleveland Court and ripped down a portion of a gate before entering the apartment complex. They then stole copper from 17 units.
Residents were particularly angred by the destruction of Parks's home. The inside's walls are ripped out, countertops flipped and there's other major damage among the mementos of Parks' life. Photos, her sewing machine, and furniture remain, though surrounded by the damage.
"As a young girl, at age 11, I joined the youth council of NAACP and we met at this apartment every Sunday. We talked about voter registration, citizenship education and youth involvement in helping poor people," Crenshaw said.
Parks' home was placed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on March 30, 1989 and the National Register of Historic Places on October 29, 2001. The 'Mother of the Civil Rights Movement' and her husband ultimately moved to Detroit, far from the apartment complex that now sits on the avenue named in her honor. Parks died in Detroit in October 2005.
Now there's a call to action for the community to raise the reward money amount. There will be a community event called "The Big Blue on the Water" on Labor Day at Gateway Park. Admission is a cash donation.
"If they would give a donation, if they will. There is no charge to get in, but if the church, civic groups, anybody that wants to donate, we are going to take the proceeds, give it to CrimeStoppers. They will be there collecting the money and they're going to increase the reward money to find out how exactly did this to Mrs. Rosa Parks' Apartment," Dillihay said.
There are cameras throughout the complex but since no one has occupied the units since the end of July, they were not turned on. Phase one of renovations was actually in progress and officials were about to start renovating the units that were vandalized. Now, that project will be delayed.
It's unclear at this time just how much repairs will cost. If you have any information that can help police, call CrimeStoppers at 215-STOP.