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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Copper thieves struck the apartment complex where Rosa Parks lived when she made civil rights history, and authorities are seeking the public's help in catching those responsible.

Parks' former apartment, unit 634, was one of many in the Cleveland Court Housing Community heavily damaged in thieves' hunt for copper pipes and tubing over the weekend.

The Montgomery Housing Authority, which oversees Cleveland Court, reported extensive interior damage Monday night to kitchens and bathrooms in 11 of the buildings on Rosa Parks Avenue.

Tony Garrett, director of CrimeStoppers, said the group is offering a $1,000 reward. A rally also was held Tuesday night at the apartments to garner community support in the case.

"We firmly believe that someone probably saw someone taking things away, but they may have misinterpreted it as someone with the Montgomery Housing Authority, so we're asking the community to give us a call at 215-STOP," Garrett said.

Plaster, tiling and insulation were strewn across the floors Tuesday and large chunks of wall were ripped open where the thieves gained access to the copper used during the era the buildings were erected.

The fact that the thieves hit an area with such historical significance is truly disturbing, said Evette Hester, executive director of the Montgomery Housing Authority.

"It is a travesty that someone could disrespect the dignity and honor of Mrs. Parks by causing immeasurable damage to her home - the home she lived in while pioneering one of the most important eras in American history. I am saddened and dismayed," Hester said.

The Cleveland Court Housing Community currently is vacant and fenced off as it undergoes a multimillion-dollar renovation to modernize 140 apartments in the complex with new kitchens, baths and other comforts.

Parks' former apartment also was undergoing restorations to allow more visitor access. The apartment serves as a mini-museum, furnished with replica period pieces from the 1950s. A historical marker stands outside the home.

There was only slight damage to the items on display, including a small tear in the couch and a few broken picture frames, according to Housing Authority officials. Since the vandalism, all the items have been removed.

"While this is a setback, we are still committed to restoring Mrs. Parks' home to a level which will provide an exceptional visitor experience and dignify her legacy," Hester said.

Insulation that once surrounded the copper tubing was visible across the lawn toward the back of the apartment complex, where Garrett believes the thieves left with the copper. Large sections of the chain-link fence surrounding the property were cut and rolled back.

Garrett said the thieves likely loaded the copper into a truck parked beyond the fence.

Maintenance workers said they routinely clear the area of any debris and were shocked to discover the mess Monday. The area was completely clear, they said, on Friday.

Parks lived at the complex from 1951 to 1957 with her husband, Raymond, and mother, Leona McCauley. Parks made history when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery bus in in 1955.

Parks' home was placed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1989 and the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Copper thieves vandalize Rosa Parks' Montgomery home

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