A black church in Greenville, Mississippi, was set on fire on Tuesday night. Fire fighters arrived to find Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church “heavily engulfed in flames,” Mayor Errick Simmons said in an interview; the fire took nearly an hour to contain. No one was in the church at the time, and no one was injured. On the side of the church, beneath the blackened windows and roof, the words “Vote Trump” have been spray painted.
The fire is being investigated as a hate crime, Simmons said. Federal authorities, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives, are helping local authorities with the investigation, which is part of the standard procedure for church fires. “We’re very cautious in this climate, in this day and time, to make sure we’re very deliberate in investigating matters like this,” Simmons said. This fire was “a direct assault on people’s right to free worship,” he said, and later added during a press conference, “I see this as an attack on the black church and the black community.”
The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was an act of white supremacist terrorism which occurred at the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday, September 15, 1963, when four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the front steps of the church.
Described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity”, the explosion at the church killed four girls and injured 22 others.
Although the FBI had concluded in 1965 that the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing had been committed by four known Ku Klux Klansmen and segregationists—Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr., Herman Frank Cash, Robert Edward Chambliss, and Bobby Frank Cherry—no prosecutions ensued until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of the first degree murder of one of the victims, 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair. Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry were each convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 and 2002 respectively, whereas Herman Cash, who died in 1994, was never charged with his alleged involvement in the bombing.
The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing marked a turning point in the United States during the Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.