Both local and federal authorities are looking into an act of vandalism that occurred at a church in Greenville, Mississippi on Tuesday evening.
According to KARD, a fire occurred at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church at around 9:15 PM on Tuesday. Local fire chief Ruben Brown told the outlet that there were no injuries reported, and the damage was largely contained to the main sanctuary. In addition to the fire, the words “vote Trump” were spray painted along the outer wall of the Church, Wave3 News reported.
Speaking with WJTV, FBIPublic Affairs Specialist Brett Carr said the Bureau’s Jackson office “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.” According to Myarklamiss.com, representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, as well as state fire marshals were on hand at the scene, as well.
At a press conference held on Wednesday morning, Greenville police chief Delando Wilson confirmed that authorities were investigating the fire as a hate crime, but did not have any suspects at the time.
Speaking with reporters, Mayor Errick Simmons said he saw the incident as “an attack on the black church, the black community,” adding later “It appears to be a race crime.”
A crowdfunding page has already been established to help repair the church.
“The animus of this election cycle combined with the potent racial history of burning black churches as a political symbol makes this event something we must not ignore,” the page explains.
Later, it asks potential donors whether they can help “show the world, the country, and most importantly, the churchgoers of Hopewell Baptist that we, as a society, are better than this?”
This incident comes just over a year after a spate of church burnings—largely affecting black congregations—hit the South-Eastern United States in the wake of the shooting attack on the Emanual AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
This story will be updated as new information is made available.