Dec 21 Authorities in Mississippi on Wednesday
arrested an African-American man in connection with the fire and
vandalism of a historic black church, in a case that was
initially investigated as a hate crime.
The Greenville church was painted with the words "Vote
Trump" and set ablaze a week before the November U.S.
presidential election, leading officials initially to view it as
a politically motivated hate crime.
Andrew McClinton, 45, was charged with arson of a place of
worship for the fire at the Hopewell Baptist Church, said Warren
Strain, a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public
Safety. He said McClinton was African-American.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is part of
the Public Safety Department, did not say what led them to
McClinton or speculate about his motive.
But Mississippi State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney said in an
interview he did not think the attack was politically motivated.
"At this point we do not believe it was a politically
motivated crime though it appears there were attempts to make it
look politically motivated," Chaney said.
He said McClinton was still being interviewed on Wednesday
afternoon, and that details about his motivation would likely
emerge soon. Chaney, who also serves as the state's insurance
commissioner, said the arson was not believed to be
Black churches in the U.S. South have long been a base of
support for the Democratic Party, so the attack and the language
supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump were taken as
During the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and
1960s, Southern black churches were often targets for arson and
bombings by white supremacists.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Editing
by Matthew Lewis)