A predominately black church in Greenville, Miss., was set on fire and vandalized with white spray paint to read “Vote Trump,” on Tuesday night, according to authorities. Hopewell Baptist is still standing, but investigators had to wait until Wednesday to enter the building because it was still dangerously hot.
Luckily, the building was vacant at the time and no one was injured in the blaze. The pastor, Carilyn Hudson, hopes to rebuild from the ashes of the 111 year-old church, but the amount of damage isn’t known yet.
“We do believe that God will allow us to build another sanctuary in that same place,” she said.
Federal officials including the FBI are looking into the act of arson as a potential hate crime. The demographics of Greenville, in the Mississippi Delta region, comprises 78 percent black residents. The incident reminded many of the South’s history of racism, specifically the burning of black churches by white supremacists.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called the burning “a deeply shocking and saddening event that harkens back to a much darker day in Mississippi.”
Even if it is determined that the fire was not racially motivated, the perpetrator could still face charges stemming from voter intimidation since the message was indisputably political in nature. Authorities have questioned one person of interest, but no arrests have been made at this time.
One piece of good news: a GoFundMe account set up to rebuild the church has raised over $145,000 as of Thursday morning. The original goal was $10,000.
[CNN] [New York Times] [Jackson Clarion-Ledger] [Image courtesy Angie Quezada/Delta Daily News via NBC News]