Authorities in Mississippi are investigating what has been labeled a possible hate crime after a historically black church was set ablaze and vandalized Tuesday night.
Greenville firefighters found Hopewell M.B. Church engulfed in flames around 9:15 p.m. after they were dispatched to the 111-year-old church. On the side of the building, someone spray-painted the words, “Vote Trump.”
Greenville police Chief Freddie Cannon called the fire “a form of voting intimidation,” WDAM reported. In a statement, Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons called the suspected arson a “hateful and cowardly act.”
“This matter is being investigated as a hate crime,” he said. “This act is a direct assault of people’s right to freely worship.”
Assistant police Chief Delando Wilson told The Clarion-Ledgerthat authorities interviewed possible witnesses Wednesday.
“We don’t have any suspects at this time,” he told the newspaper. “We are talking to a person of interest.”
Fire investigators are working to determine the cause and origin of the flames. The FBI said in a statement Wednesday that agents are monitoring the investigation.
“The FBI Jackson Division is aware of the situation in Greenville, and we are working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to determine if any civil rights crimes were committed,” the department said.
The pastor of Hopewell, the Rev. Carolyn Hudson, told The Clarion-Ledger the congregation had dealt with race-based vandalism before and that they plan to rebuild.
“Our hearts are broken, but we are not angry,” she told the newspaper. “We are saddened, but we do know that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord.”
By: Theresa Seiger
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