The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation on fires that occurred in five predominantly black churches across the country, an online news website said Sunday.
“They’re being investigated to determine who is responsible and what motives are behind them,” an FBI spokesperson told the BuzzFeed website.
On Monday, the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Tennessee was burnt. And on Tuesday, God’s Power Church of Christ in Georgia was intentionally set on fire. On Wednesday Briar Creek Baptist Church in North Carolina was burned in the middle of the night, causing $250,000 in damage.
And on Friday, the Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church in South Carolina and Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Florida were both set on fire. The church in South Carolina was completely destroyed.
Although the FBI has not found the people responsible for the fires or any links between the events, three of the five incidents were ruled as arsons. The others are still being investigated.
As analyst David Love explains, targeting black churches is a tactic designed to target one of the United States’ most marginalized communities.
“From slavery and the days of Jim Crow through the civil rights movement and beyond, white supremacists have targeted the Black church because of its importance as a pillar of the Black community, the center for leadership and institution building, education, social and political development and organizing to fight oppression,” Love wrote in an article published by Atlanta Black Star.
The attacks on the churches come as racial tensions have heightened over the past weeks, after the Charleston Massacre re-sparked the debate around racism and white supremacy in the country.
The massacre prompted an outcry against racist imagery and grassroots campaign urged the state and politicians to take down the Confederate flag, which hung in front of the local statehouse since 1961.
Already across the South, politicians, prominent figures, and activists have called for the removal of the Confederate flag, after photos showing Dylann Roof, the confessed killer of the nine Black Americans in Charleston were spread across social media.
The campaign to take down the flag has caused a backlash among some mostly white communities in the South, who view the flag as part of their heritage and maintain it should stay on state grounds. A petition – already signed by 3,000 people – to remove an African American Monument on the South Carolina State House grounds has circulated on the web in recent days in response.
The monument pays tribute to the hundreds of years of oppression suffered by Black people in the U.S.