Several Confederate battle flags were discovered Thursday on the grounds of Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father both served as pastors. It was not immediately clear who left the flags, the discovery of which church officials reported to law enforcement.

The Atlanta Police Department and the FBI appeared to be examining the scene Thursday, Atlanta's WAGA-TV reported. At least four small Confederate battle flags were found in several places around the Auburn Avenue building, church officials told WAGA.

The church is a national historic site. National Park Service rangers regularly patrol the area, which consists of several buildings, including King’s childhood home, a civil rights museum and the church.

The Rev. Shanan Jones, a minister at the church, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that church leaders expected to release a statement about the flags later Thursday. The discovery of the flags follows a national debate over public displays of the Confederate flag sparked by the massacre last month of nine black worshippers at a separate historic and black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The act was carried out by a white man who apparently held sacred the Confederate symbol for its ties to racial segregation and white supremacy in the Deep South.

On July 9, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill authorizing the removal of Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol.

The flags discovered at Ebenezer Baptist Church were placed below a “Black Lives Matter” poster on the path to the visitor hall of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and on a corner near the church, the Journal-Constitution reported. Police removed the flags at 9:30 a.m. local time and placed them in the trunk of a squad car.

Tracey Jackson, a 45-year-old Atlanta resident who lives near the historic church, said the appearance of the flags saddened her. “That flag represents what happened in the past,” she told the Journal-Constitution. “And too many people are holding on to that past. It just hurts.”

Another grim moment from the Atlanta church's past occurred June 30, 1974, when King's mother, Alberta Williams King, was shot and killed inside the church. Her assailant received a life prison sentence and died in 1995.