News of a black church set ablaze in the Mississippi Delta with “Vote Trump” scrawled in white spray paint on the side made national headlines as rumors and assumptions quickly swirled.
The fire, labeled a “hate crime” by many, evoked memories of 1960’s Mississippi.
However, some locals aren’t so sure.
Born and raised in Greenville, Miss., Deborah Jackson, who is African American, said she does not feel the fire Tuesday was started “in racial hate.”
“I think it was a cowardly act but at this point I don’t think it was a hate crime,” she said. “I feel like if it was going to be done as a hate crime, it would have been done in a different area. It’s not out in the open. This is in a secluded area. You would not know that church is over there unless you turned and went around there.”
Butting against railroad tracks in an older, wooded neighborhood, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church is nestled on the back of a U-shaped street. Located off one of the main thoroughfares in Greenville, several people walked by the church in an hour span Thursday; some to see the damage, many just passing through.
The front doors and several windows around the church are boarded up; yellow crime scene tape warns onlookers to stay back. The pitch of the roof sags; it has come apart from the supporting bricks. It’s unclear if cracks in the building are from the fire or age. Soot has blackened the windows but the white steeple stands tall above the damage, unscathed.
Next door, 23-year-old Kilean Coleman sat on his mother’s front porch swing Thursday afternoon. The smell of smoke still hung in the air, the grass still saturated from the flood of water firefighters used to extinguish the blaze.
“It’s scary and shocking and then it’s right beside my mom’s house, so I’m paranoid a whole lot,” said Coleman, who wasn’t visiting his mother when the fire started.
Source: USA Today | Sarah Fowler, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger