Police Investigating Racist Graffiti and Vandalism at Mississippi Restaurant

Police in Hattiesburg, Mississippi have launched an investigation after a downtown Hattiesburg restaurant was broken into and vandalized with hateful graffiti.

Officers responded to Vikki Layne’s Bar and Grill, a Black-owned restaurant in the 100 block of Walnut Street, at around 3 p.m. on September 30. The Hattiesburg Police Department said in a statement on September 30 that officers found the restaurant broken into, “heavily damaged,” and covered in graffiti.

Much of the restaurant’s interior had been destroyed, with broken mirrors, overturned tables, and glass scattered on the floor. There was also a racial slur and messages graffitied on the walls telling the owners to leave, The Clarion Ledger reported.

Owner Vikki Layne Terrell told the local newspaper she did not know why anyone would vandalize her restaurant. “I should not walk into the women’s room and see racial slurs on the walls,” she said.

The restaurant suffered damage to its kitchen and equipment, but the bathrooms had the worst damage. According to The Clarion Ledger, vandals wrote the N-word on a bathroom mirror and “Get out” and “You not welcome” on the walls.

“This is just not acceptable. Vikki is a talented restaurateur. Her food is fantastic. We’re just heartbroken that something like this would take place,” Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association told WDAM. Saffle added that Hattiesburg, located southeast of Jackson, is a “diverse and welcoming community.” The Downtown Hattiesburg Association said it does not know who could have broken into the restaurant and caused the destruction, but added that the incident will not stop the owners from moving forward.

“She will bounce back, and we will return,” Saffle said. “I do believe that she will be better. Hattiesburg will come out and support and show and prove to Vikki that she is welcome in this community and that she is a valued part of downtown.”

Authorities reviewed video footage from a nearby business’ surveillance camera but have not identified a suspect yet.

Terrell, who has been in the restaurant business for four years, told The Clarion Ledger that she began having problems when she moved her restaurant downtown less than a year ago. She said that customers have made racist comments and requests, including patrons asking not to sit next to Black customers or asking that a white waitress serve them.

“People are blatant at some of the things I go through here,” she said. “I never thought something like this would happen to me. This is 2019. This is Hattiesburg.”

Despite this, Terrell said she has no plans to move her restaurant. “And I’ll be in this building for years to come,” she said. “They should have at least waited until I was tired. You just gave me my second wind. Now I can’t dare let you make me move. I can’t dare let you make me get out.” She added that the incident was just a bump in the road “and it’s not even a big bump.”

In a statement posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, Terrell thanked the community for the outpouring of support. She also acknowledged that when incidents like this occur it “doesn’t just break your things… it breaks your spirit more than anything really.”

“Lately our city and even our COUNTRY has been extremely divided… and while I know you can’t ‘fix stupid’ what we CAN do is fight to overcome and move past it,” Terrell wrote. “We can set a NEW standard for our city… we can band together and move in a different direction… that’s the mindset I woke up in this morning… I don’t want to bash or tear down… I don’t want to separate or even segregate… I want to unify and regroup… there’s so much more POWER in what we can BUILD together… than what we can break down wasting energy tearing at each other’s throats.”

Terrell also posted a quick video of the clean up process at the restaurant. “A couple brooms, drills, good friends and family, and many hours later…one room down,” she wrote.

The Hattiesburg Police Department said that the incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact Hattiesburg Police at (601) 544-7900 or Metro Crime Stoppers at (601) 582-STOP (7867).

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.