A fire at a historically black church in Greenville, Mississippi Tuesday night was set intentionally, officials said Wednesday, and is being investigated as a possible hate crime. The words “Vote Trump” were spray-painted on the side of the 110-year-old Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church. No one was injured in the blaze, but the church was badly damaged.
“[Fire Chief Ruben Brown] said investigators had concluded that the fire was “definitely arson” after discovering ‘some type of solvent or flammable substance’ inside,’” the New York Times reports. “And Police Chief Delando Wilson said a ‘person of interest’ was being interviewed by authorities ‘to see if this person was an active participant in this crime, or to rule them out from being a participant.’”
“We feel that the quote that was placed on the church was basically, it’s an intimidation of someone’s right to vote whatever way they choose to vote,” Wilson said. “So that would be definitely considered a hate crime.” Wilson said it was unclear if there was a racial motive. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, however, said Wednesday: “I want to make it clear that the initial work here indicates this is not of a political nature, even though there may be something that says ‘vote Trump’ on the side of the church.
A GoFundMe page to support repairing the church raised more than $120,000 in less than 24 hours.