Seven predominantly Black churches in Southern States Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina have gone into flames after the recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
At least three of the fires were attributed to arson, which raises concerns community climate amongst citizens in the South.
On June 17, 21-year-old Dylan Roof, a white man with supremacist ideals, shot and killed nine people in a shooting rampage inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Following the shooting, federal investigators have looked into the cases of the church burnings to decide if the incidents were hate-crime related. According to investigators, no substantial evidence points the fires to be related to one another.
After the shooting, news outlets received pictures of Roof holding the Confederate flag in disturbing poses. The pictures sparked major conversations about the use of the Confederate flag on state grounds and resulted in a decision to remove the flag from several state capitols. The decision to do so caught major opposition from Confederate flag supporters causing a shift in the discussion of “American history.”
Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, S.C., was one of the seven churches burned down. The June 30th church fire rekindled memories dated back to 1995, when Ku Klux Klan (KKK) burned down the church to the ground.
Dating back to the post Civil War times, members of Black churches have always seen a threat of existence from the KKK. The hate group terrorized members of the Black community when the attacks at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four young Black girls.
On June 22, College Hill Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., got fire by an act of arson. June 23 in Macon, Ga., God’s Power Church of Christ was set on fire by an act of arson. Two churches were experienced fires on June 24. Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., was set on fire from arson and that same day Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Humboldt, Tenn., caught on fire from unknown causes. Two days later both Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Fla., and Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, S.C., had fires from unknown reasons. All of these accounts are according to USA Today.
Social media users are taking to Twitter the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind: Where and who are the fires coming from?
“To date the investigations have not revealed any potential links between the fires,” Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman told Reuters.
The National Fire Protection Association stated in a fire response data collection that church fires occur all the time. Since the 1990s, the National Church Arson Task Force investigated at least 269 church incidents that involved black churches, 185 of them were in the South.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) put out a statement urging black churches to take “necessary precautions” to protect themselves in the rise of the church fires.
Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta told an NBC affiliate that if the churches are being targeted the problem extends beyond the black community.
“If you burn a Quran on Tuesday, you might burn a cross on my lawn on Wednesday night,” Warnock said. “ Terror is terror, hate is hate and we all have to be here for one another.”