USA (Next Media) – The FBI has launched an investigation into fires at seven different African-American churches in the United States in the last seven days to understand whether they are something more than a coincidence. According to Reuters, so far none of the blazes have been labeled as hate crimes.
The fires occurred in six different states: Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Ohio and began on June 22.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, the fire was determined to be arson. According to RT, someone stacked bales of hay against the door of the Seventh Day Adventist Church before lighting them. The blaze damaged the building and destroyed the congregation’s van in the parking lot.
According to authorities, the fire on June 23 at God’s Power Church of Christ, a predominantly black church in Macon, Georgia, was also set on purpose.
On June 24, there was a blaze at Briar Creek Baptist Church, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where 75 firefighters needed an hour to extinguish the three-alarm fire.
The same day, there was a fire at the Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee, that was suspected to have been caused by lightning.
On June 26 a church in Warrenville, South Carolina, and one in Tallahassee, Florida, also caught fire. The latter was caused by a tree limb that fell on the Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church, which caused an electrical blaze and an estimated $700,000 of damage.
According to NBC News, the church in Warrenville was burned down 20 years ago by the Ku Klux Klan.
The most recent fire was in Elyria, Ohio, where the College Heights Baptist Church burned down on Saturday night.
The first of the fires happened less than a week after Dylann Roof perpetrated a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine African-Americans.
According to statistics by the Huffington Post, it’s not the first time African-American churches have been the target of arson attacks. In 1995 and 1996, within only 18 months, 30 black churches were burned down. As a consequence, the Clinton administration passed the Church Arson Prevention Act, which gave federal investigators more power to investigate such crimes.
The act also increased sentences for perpetrators.
SOURCES: REUTERS,CBS NEWS, RT, HUFFINGTON POST, NBC NEWS