Mississippi police and the FBI are treating the burning of the Hopewell Baptist Church as a hate crime.
CNN reports the vandal(s) trashed the historically Black church Tuesday evening (Nov. 1), setting fire to the sanctuary and tagging the side of the building, "Vote Trump." Firefighters arrived in the Greenville area to extinguish the blaze shortly after 9:15 p.m. "Our church was a historic church that has been there for over 111 years," said Pastor Carolyn Hudson. "This has left our hearts broken, but we are strong together ... Y'all continue to pray for us." In a statement to reporters, the FBI said they would be working "with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to determine if any civil rights crimes were committed." Because the church is a historically black place of praise, it will be treated as a hate crime.
Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilson said they are working on several leads but do not have anyone in custody. Investigators also believe it was an attempt to intimidate voters. "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," the chief said.
Mayor Errick Simmons told reporters the 200 congregants of the church believe the fire was an attack on the black community. "It happened in the '50s, it happened in the '60s, but we're in 2016 and that should not happen," he said.
A GoFundMe was launched shortly after the news spread and has garnered over $61,000, exceeding its goal of $10,000.