8th Black Church In 10 Days Burns Down
The Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina went up in flames Tuesday, TIME reports. The blaze marks the 8th Black church fire in 10 days to occur since the June 17 Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that an inferno has destroyed the house of worship. In 1995, Mount Zion was burned down by two members of the KKK. The arson was part of string of 30 Black church fires that spanned two years. The men later pled guilty to the crimes and were sentenced to two decades behind bars. Then-president Bill Clinton spoke at the church’s restructuring in 1996, just days before its official dedication ceremony.
AME leadership says that the Mount Zion congregation will bounce back just as they have before.
Tuesday’s fire “will not send us into despair or depression. As Christians, we are a people of resurrection and even from the ashes we will rise,”John Bryant, Senior Bishop of AME headquarters, told Fox 8.
So far, Williamsburg County Fire Chief Randy Swinton is saying that investigators are not sure what caused the fire. Currently, the FBI and five agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are looking into the fire.
“Anytime there is a house of worship involved in a fire, ATF is automatically assigned to look into the cause,” said ATF Special Agent Tom Mangan.
Once embers cool down, a sniffer dog will likely be sent to the scene to begin the first phase of the investigation.
Other Black churches that have burned down over the past two weeks include:
June 28: College Heights Baptist Church in Elyria, Ohio. The cause of that fire is still under investigation.
June 26: Glover Grovery Baptist in Warrenville, South Carolina. According to CNN, a cause for the fire has not been determined, but investigators say that they have not observed signs that point to criminal intent.
June 26: Greater Miracle Apostolic in Tallahassee, Florida. Investigators suspect that the fire was caused by a tree limb falling onto a power line.
June 24: Briar Creek Road Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The fire has been ruled an arson.
June 24: Fruitland Presbyterian Church, in Gibson County, Tennessee. According to CBS News, it was initially believed that this was an electrical fire, but ATF reps say that the fire is still under investigation.
June 21: College Hill Seventh-day Adventist in Knoxville, Tennessee, This fire has also been ruled an arson, but investigators say that they have not found evidence to indicate that this was a hate crime.
June 21: God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia. Investigators suspect that the fire was intentionally started, but no official ruling has been made.
Social media users took to Twitter this week to air out their frustrations regarding the fires and the investigations.
We will continue to keep you posted as new details emerge.