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Masons' lodge vandalized
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The meeting space of the historically-black Masons in Covington was recently vandalized with spray painted religious statements and a racial slur, according to the lodge's leader.

Members first discovered the graffiti two weeks ago as they were preparing the area for a community event, according to Archie Shepherd, the current worshipful master of the Prince Hall Mason Friendship Lodge No. 20 on Geiger Street and past president of the Newton County chapter of the NAACP.

When they walked around to a back area not normally seen from the street, they realized their lodge had been defaced.

Statements such as "Roast in hell," "May God save you," and "n*****" were written in scrawling gray spray paint on the white cinder block wall, along with crosses and a pentagram in a circle.

"My first thought was, 'The kids were at it again,'" Shepherd said.

He said delinquent youth used to cut class and congregate by the lodge in the past. At the beginning of the year, a man was caught breaking into the lodge as well.

The perpetrators must have walked through a back field, Shepherd said, because neighbors normally watch the lodge during the day and hadn't seen anything from the street.

He estimated the cost of painting over the letters and the entire outside of the building would be about $1,000, on top of the $15,000 worth of renovation done recently inside.

The Covington lodge, which was established sometime before 1923, has about 75 to 80 active members that meet in the Geiger Street building, built in 1972, about twice a month. The lodge also participates in cultural events and allows the community to use its facilities for other events.

The defacement was only recently reported to the police because of a death in the family and illness, said Shepherd.