Mississippi mayor: Attack on church a hate crime, but ‘love trumps hate’

·Senior Writer


“This is a hate crime,” said the mayor of a Mississippi town where a historic black church was a target of arson and vandalism Tuesday night.

Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, were investigating the burning of 111-year-old Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church. “Vote Trump” was spray-painted on the outside of the church.

“I did arrive on the scene last night,” said Simmons in an interview with Yahoo News Wednesday, “and the congregants of the church were quite appalled, fearful, intimidated and some of them were crying.”

“It’s a place where people raise their children, it’s a meeting place for an exchange of ideas, so we know the symbolism of the burning of the black church in the ’50s and ’60s was a way of intimidating folks who had their rights and civil liberties deprived. We’re looking at this as a hate crime due to the historic nature of this church.”

Area residents and church members observe as authorities investigate the fire damaged Hopewell M.B. Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
Area residents and church members observe as authorities investigate the fire damaged Hopewell M.B. Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

SLIDESHOW: Historic Mississippi black church burned and vandalized with ‘Vote Trump’ graffiti >>>

When asked about the political climate in the town, Simmons said that there had been no heads-up or indication that an event like this was going to happen. He did note that the N word had been spray-painted on a local boat in September.

“Love trumps hate, and what we have to do is move forward in loving each other and respecting each other,” said the mayor, who took office in January. “We want to go forward by saying, Do not let this define who we are in Greenville.”

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