ELECTION DAY ARSON: Historic Black church set on fire just hours before polls open
Multiple fires were purposefully set overnight in the predominantly Black city of Jackson, Mississippi, just hours before election day polls opened. Local media reported several buildings – including two identified as being part of a church — near Jackson State University, the state’s largest historically Black college, were set ablaze due to arson.
The Epiphany Lutheran Church was completely destroyed – burning for over four hours before the inferno was extinguished.
Photos courtesy of the Clarion-Ledger.
73-year-old church elder, Lloyd Caston, was alerted about the fire, arriving to see the nearly century-old church “fully enflamed.” Leaving before the fire was extinguished, Caston said:
“There was nothing we could do but sit and watch, that was it. It destroyed the church and everything in it. The church is 85 years old, and renovations to the building’s interior had just been completed in March.”
“I was hurt,” Caston said.
Shuwaski Young, a local Democratic candidate for Congress, released a statement condemning the act of cowardice, and encouraging voters not to be deterred.
“This morning several churches were burned in Jackson, Mississippi on Election Day. These cowardly actions invoke historical acts of terrorism when people are fighting for their right to vote and live peacefully as Americans and Mississippians. We will not be deterred and will not be intimidated. We will not allow domestic terrorists to suppress our right to vote. I ask all Mississippians to GO VOTE regardless of this decades old intimidation tactic to suppress our votes today. Just Go VOTE.”
My statement on the church burning in Jackson, Mississippi on #ElectionDay. Go VOTE Mississippi. Just Go VOTE. pic.twitter.com/Xnes0jnjUu
— Shuwaski Young for Congress (@shuwaskiyoung) November 8, 2022
According to U.S. News & World Report, The Jackson Fire Department began receiving calls about the fire at around 2:45 AM, Assistant Chief Patrick Armon told local ABC affiliate WAPT-TV. The fires were all extinguished by Tuesday morning, with no reports of injuries.
One of Tuesday’s fires broke out on the baseball practice field at Jackson State University and is being investigated by the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office. With the arson occurring on state-owned property, a $5000 reward has been offered for information leading up to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator, according to NBC 10.
While it’s unknown whether Jackson State University was the intended target, the HBCU was the subject of bomb threats earlier this year. In February, JSU was one of four historically Black colleges and universities in Mississippi targeted with threats of violence – causing some of the schools to switch to remote learning out of safety concerns.
(1 of 3) JSU Alert: Jackson State University received a bomb threat this morning at 4:15 a.m. The Jackson Police Department and JSU Department of Public Safety have swept the campus and found the threat unsubstantiated. An all-clear has been issued.
— Jackson State U. (@JacksonStateU) February 1, 2022
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba addressed the fires at a city council meeting on Tuesday, thanking first responders for their quick action.
“We don’t yet know who or why, but I want to thank the firefighters because they were able to respond to that and still get back to the stations so that people could set up for voting precincts.”
Authorities are looking for one suspect in the alleged arson.
Original reporting by Rich McKay at Reuters.
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