‘Immigrants Not Welcome.’ Vandals deface historic Irish Midtown storefront

A historic Irish landmark in Kansas City was defaced with anti-immigrant graffiti over the weekend.

Vandals spray-painted "Immigrants Not Welcome" on a wall at Browne's Irish Marketplace, a Midtown storefront founded in 1887 by Irish immigrants.

The marketplace has been recognized by the Irish government as the oldest Irish building in North America, according to co-owner Kerry Browne.

Together with her husband, John McClain, Browne is the fourth generation in her family to helm the Irish deli, grocery and retail shop. Yet in more than 130 years, she said, this is the first time the store has ever experienced such a brazen act of prejudice.

"Graffiti happens everywhere. It's the hate speech that shocks me," Browne said. "We're a store that was based on immigrants. We welcome immigrants, we have immigrants who work for us. Of course immigrants are welcome here."

Browne said she and McClain learned of the graffiti about 11:30 a.m. Monday when a customer asked about it. The message was painted on the marketplace's east side, out of sight from the north-side entrance where Browne and her husband normally park and enter the store.

Browne and McClain filed an incident report with Kansas City police by the afternoon but said they have yet to check security cameras that Browne said have a "pretty good" view of the vandalized area. "Hopefully the footage will tell us who did this," she said.

In the meantime, Browne and McClain have chosen to not dwell on the hate.

"The bigger message to me has been the huge outpouring of support from the community," Browne said. "Hundreds of people have come down to support us and be with us."

In addition to community support, Browne said she received calls of comfort from the Irish Heritage Center in Chicago and even a call from within the Irish government in Dublin.

"If the person did this to show hate, they lost," Browne said. "Kindness wins. Good wins."