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Briar Creek Road Baptist Church fire ruled arson, Charlotte, North Carolina
Since nine people were gunned down in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina…by a 21-year-old white man tied to white supremacist groups, there have been a string of arson attacks on other black churches in the South.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominantly black churches in four Southern states have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past week. While some may have been accidental, at least three have been determined to be the result of arson.
The first arson fire was on Monday at the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Knoxville fire department has said that the arsonist set multiple fires on the church’s property and the church’s van was also burned. On Tuesday, a fire in the sanctuary of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia was also blamed on arson, although the investigation is ongoing. And on Wednesday, a fire at the Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was determined to be caused by arson, destroying an education wing that was meant to house a summer program for children, impacting its sanctuary and gymnasium, and causing an estimated $250,000 in damage…
Black churches have frequently been targets of violence. Since 1956, there have been at least 91 incidents of shootings, bombings, arson, or vandalism against black churches, according to a tally by the Huffington Post. One particular incident stood out during the Civil Rights Movement, when four young girls were killed and 22 were injured at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
That’s likely a vast undercount, however, given that records from the 1970s and 1980s are scarce. There was a spike in violence in the 90s, with more than 30 black churches burned within 18 months in 1995 and 1996. That led to the passage of the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, which gave federal authorities more oversight of such crimes, increased sentencing, and reauthorized the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.
The assault continues in an unimpeded string of violence against anyone who stands up to racist policies. But, especially if you or your organization is predominantly comprised of Black folks – you are a critical target for racist American bigots.
So, see any coverage of this on your local network TV station? You probably saw the baseball catch of the day, a plane crash somewhere on the globe, maybe the 12th or 13th useless Republican announcing their candidacy for President of the United States – if not the new Confederacy. But, nothing about this spike in arson of Black churches made it onto the screens of my local TV guardians of the Free World.