According to the Clarion-Ledger, the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, an 111-year-old historically black church in Greenville, Mississippi, was found “engulfed in flames” around 9:15 Tuesday night. “Vote Trump” was spray painted on the side of the church, which has a congregation of around 200 people. No one was injured, but the church now has heavy damage from the fire, smoke, and water.
It’s not yet clear how the fire started or who started it, but the police are investigating the hate crime. Federal authorities, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, are helping local authorities with the investigation. Mayor Errick D. Simmons said, “We will not rest until the culprit is found and fully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Greenville Police Chief Freddie Cannon said the act was carried out as voter intimidation. “It tries to push your beliefs on someone else, and this is a church, a predominantly black church, and no one has a right to try and … pressure someone into the way they want to decide to vote in this election,” he said, according to CNN.
Calling the attack “a heinous, hateful and cowardly act,” Simmons said, “This act is a direct assault on people’s right to freely worship.” Furthermore, it was “an attack on the black church an the black community.” He added, “This happened in the ’50s and the ’60s. This should not happen in 2016.”
The church’s pastor, Rev. Carolyn Hudson, said, “Our hearts are broken, but we are not angry. We are saddened, but we do know that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord.” A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for repairs, and has already received over $18,000 in donations.