The burning of a historic Black church in Mississippi—during which the culprits spray-painted "Vote Trump" on a wall—will be treated as as a hate crime, law enforcement officials announced Wednesday.
"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," Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilson said in a press conference, adding that the fire was an act of voter intimidation in this majority Black city.
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The Hopewell Baptist Church in Greenville went up in flames Tuesday night. Though firefighters quickly put out the the flames, the sanctuary of the 111-year-old church was badly damaged, according to pastor Carilyn Hudson. No injuries were reported.
"We do believe that God will allow us to build another sanctuary in that same place," she said.
Police Chief Wilson also added that they interviewed a person of interest, but outside of that, there were no suspects. The FBI is involved, saying they would work with law enforcement to determine if this was a civil rights crime given the fact that it was a Black church.
Greenville’s Mayor said that many members of the church saw it more than just an individual incident aimed at the church, but also aimed the Black community in this day and age.
But things are looking up: A GoFundMe account to help rebuild the church rebuild reached its goal of $10,000 by Wednesday afternoon, reaching $70,000 by late Wednesday afternoon.
Almost 2,000 people have donated in just eight hours.