In the days since the Charleston church shooting tragedy in South Carolina, a number of Black church fires have been reported across the South. While an actual cause of some of the blazes has yet to be officially confirmed, many think that the Black church fires are the work of an arsonist.
Last Friday, longstanding civil rights and legal advocacy group the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report on the string of fires. The SPLC asserts in a posting that the fires strike a curious pattern that doesn’t seem to be random occurrences. Considering the long history of violence against the Black church across the Deep South in times past, perhaps the speculation holds weight, according to the SPLC.
More from the SPLC:
Arsonists started at least three of the fires, while other causes are being examined in the other fires, investigators say.
The series of fires – some of them suspicious and possible hate crimes — came in the week following a murderous rampage by a white supremacist who shot and killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
The fires also occurred at a time when there is increasing public pressure to remove the Confederate flag – one of the last hallmarks of white superiority — from government buildings and public places as well as banning assorted Confederate flag merchandise sold in retails stores and online.
Even if the fires are deemed arson, it takes additional proof under reporting standards to conclude the act was a hate crime, investigators say.
The church burnings began on June 22 in Knoxville, Tenn. at the College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church, but the building wasn’t severely damaged. A van was also set on fire at the church site. In Macon, Ga., God’s Power Church of Christ was set ablaze last Tuesday and was ruled an arson although it has not been given a hate crime designation.
Fires also took place in churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida as well. In three of the blazes, arson has been the initial suspicion.
As reported by the Washington Post, the FBI and ATF are investigating the matter.