Vikki Layne’s vandalized; racist slurs painted in building

By HASKEL BURNS,

Victoria Terrell, owner of Vikki Layne’s restaurant on Walnut Street in downtown Hattiesburg, would have liked to think that 2019 was a more progressive time – a time where, hopefully, racism was fading away.

But when she walked into the restaurant Monday afternoon, the sight of massive vandalism – dishes broken, tables turned over, vases shattered and racist graffiti plastered on the wall – she realized there’s at least one person out there unwilling to let go of ways of the past.

“I’m talking total destruction – everything in my building is destroyed,” she said Monday while Hattiesburg Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit secured the building. “I just burst into tears. I literally live in this place – I work really hard in this place.

“Everybody is supportive. Don’t get me wrong; I have people come in every now and then and say nasty things to me, but this is 2019. I felt like I was walking into the ‘50s or 60s. I have a diverse atmosphere here – I have all races, so this is not the norm. I didn’t imagine anything like this would happen.”

Almost every table in the restaurant’s dining room was turned over, with chairs and vases broken on the ground. In the kitchen, broken dishes littered the floor, along with overturned racks and damaged equipment.

Perhaps most disconcerting was the graffiti, which was found throughout the dining room and restrooms, reading “n****r,” “you not welcome,” “b***h” and “get out.”

“There’s no reason anything like this should happen,” said Terrell, a black woman. “I should not walk into my women’s room and see racial slurs scrawled around the walls; I shouldn’t walk through and see on my walls where it says ‘get out’ or that I’m not welcome.

“I’m born and raised here; my parents are born and raised here. Where else would I be welcome, but where I’m from?”

Police are reviewing surveillance video for clues on the suspect, who apparently gained entrance through one of the back doors. In addition, Terrell said a man stopped by the restaurant over the weekend who made the staff uncomfortable, taking pictures of the locks on the door. Rather than leave via the sidewalk, the individual went around to the back of the building and jumped over the fence.

“If you’re not doing anything wrong, that’s very sketchy,” she said. “It made me very uncomfortable, and it made my staff very uncomfortable. I just don’t understand.”

Terrell said although she’s had customers make racist comments in the past, she never thought it would lead to an incident like this.

“I had a guy come through who called us 'coons' when he found out we had a black owner,” she said. “People have asked if we have a black owner, or they just notice we have a mixture of a diverse staff.

“And we had a guy come in who asked for a Caucasian waitress, and if he could be sat by no black people and no children. So people are blatant in some of the things that I go through here. But I call the police and file reports on everything, but I push through, because I never though something like this would happen to me. This is 2019. This is Hattiesburg.”

Police are asking anyone with information regarding the crime to call HPD at (601) 544-7900 or Metro Crime Stoppers at (601) 582-7867.

“I haven’t even been in this building for a year, because I’ll be in this building for years to come,” Terrell said. “So they should have at least waited a while, waited until I was tired – you just gave me my second wind.

“If I was tired, you helped me more than you know, because I can’t dare let you make me move; I can’t dare let you make me find another place. I can’t dare let you make me get out. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to clean up, and hopefully we get everything done quickly, and we’re going to reopen.”