'Exclusively for White People' stickers hung in Austin businesses

April Jensen, an employee at Sugar Mama's holds a sticker that the business found on the front of their store in Austin, Texas, March 18, 2015. (Photo by Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez/AP)
April Jensen, an employee at Sugar Mama's holds a sticker that the business found on the front of their store in Austin, Texas, March 18, 2015.

Stickers reading "Exclusively for White People" were hung in several businesses this week throughout the eastern part of Austin, Texas. City officials are calling it an act of vandalism, and searching for the culprits.

The decals also read: A "maximum of 5 colored customers/colored BOH [back of house] staff accepted," and noted a sponsorship from the City of Austin Contemporary Partition and Restoration Program. They also include the logo for the City of Austin.

But Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Wednesday first denied that the city authorized the stickers.

"It wasn’t true, and I think people that know this city know that that was not true," he told msnbc on Friday. "The overall message of the sticker was wrong, and it was inappropriate and it was offensive. But the use of the city symbol associated with that message I think compounds that harm and that hurt."

The city, he added, has joined residents and civic leaders in the community in condemning the behavior. City Manager Marc Ott also said the "cowardly and hateful" act will not be tolerated.

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Officials believe the signs were affixed to the outside of about 12 store fronts on Wednesday morning between midnight and 7 a.m., Adler said. They allegedly were brought to the attention of the public through a resident's Facebook post.

The businesses also reportedly weren't aware of the stickers until employees noticed them on Wednesday morning.

The owner of Sugar Mama's Bakeshop told a local NBC News affiliate that the stickers might have been an attempt at satire or a statement on gentrification in the neighborhood. But "as a multiracial family with a multiracial staff, there's nothing funny about this," Olivia Guerra O'Neal said.

Law enforcement authorities are investigating the incident. Officials are closely monitoring local businesses for additional instances of defacement. Adler said the behavior is a criminal act, and those found responsible could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Austin is a rapidly growing city that has become more diverse over time. The stickers were put up in a historically minority community, Adler said.

"The message here is that Austin is a very welcoming city," he added.

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Austin recently hosted the annual SxSW Interactive Festival, where industry leaders showcase new websites, video games, and start-up ideas, and host presentations and panels. The five-day event ended on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, officials in Mississippi on Friday continued to investigate the death of Otis Byrd, a 54-year-old man found dead, hanging in the woods not far from his home this week. Authorities aren't drawing conclusions at this time about whether Byrd's death was a suicide or homicide.