A church in Greenville, Mississippi that was burned and vandalized is now being investigated as a hate crime.
According to local news channel WDAM authorities responded to a 911 call made at 9:15 p.m. EST about Hopewell M.B. Church. The 111 year old building was not only incinerated, but also vandalized with the words “Vote Trump” spray painted on the side of the church.
Heavy fire, water and smoke damage in the sanctuary of the church was also reported, along with damages to the pastor’s study and the kitchen. Fortunately, no one was reported injured during the burning.
Officials said during a press conference held earlier today (Wednesday), that the incident is now being investigated as a hate crime. Greenville Police Chief Freddie Cannon called the incident “a form of voting intimidation.”
Fellow Police Chief Delando Wilson also said police are interviewing witnesses and talking to “a person of interest,” although there are no suspects yet.
Errick Simmons, the Mayor of Greenville also spoke about the incident, saying:
“We have contacted local, state and federal authorities of this hateful and cowardly act. This matter is being investigated as a hate crime. This act is a direct assault of people’s right to freely worship. Moreover, this matter is being investigated with all deliberate speed and we will not rest until the culprit is found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“This happened in the ’50s and the ’60s,” he added. “This should not happen in 2016.”
The FBI told The Clarion-Ledger, a Mississippi newspaper, that it is “aware of the situation” and is investigating to “determine if any civil rights crimes were committed.”
A GoFundMe page raising money to repair the church has already been created. “Can we help show the world, the country, and most importantly, the churchgoers of Hopewell Baptist that we, as a society, are better than this,” the page reads. “Please give.”
The page has already received nearly $50,000 dollars within the last six hours (the page’s goal is $100,000).