GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) – Authorities say a fire has partially damaged a black church in Mississippi, and television images show “Vote Trump” spray-painted on an outside wall.
Fire Chief Ruben Brown tells The Associated Press that firefighters found flames and smoke pouring from the sanctuary of the Hopewell M.B Church just after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
He says the sanctuary sustained heavy damage, while the kitchen and pastor’s office received water and smoke damage. He says investigators don’t know yet if it is a case of arson.
Mayor Errick Simmons says the vandalism is a “hateful and cowardly act.” Local officials consider the fire a hate crime is because of the political message he believes was intended to interfere with worship and intimidate voters.
But neither Simmons nor Fire Chief Ruben Brown has labeled the fire a case of arson, although Brown has said arson investigators are at the scene. Brown says the fire caused heavy damage to the sanctuary and water and heat damage to the kitchen and pastor’s study.