The crime scene tape outlines the perimeter of the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, after the church was burned and spray-painted with “Vote Trump,” three weeks ago. T
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
JACKSON, Miss. – A Mississippi man arrested in the burning of an African-American church, which was spray-painted with the words “Vote Trump” is a member of the church, the church of the bishop said.
Andrew McClinton, 45, Leland, Mississippi, was charged Wednesday with first degree arson of a place of worship, said Warren Strain, spokesman of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. McClinton is African-American.
McClinton was arrested in Greenville, where at the Cemetery and Missionary Baptist Church was set on fire and destroyed Nov. 1, a week before the presidential election.
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At the cemetery, Bishop Clarence Green said McClinton is a member of the church. Green said that he did not know about the arrest until he was called by The Associated Press.
“This is the first I have heard,” said Green, who said that he was quite at the other church duties and had no time for a longer interview.
It was not immediately clear whether McClinton is represented by a lawyer.
An investigation continues, but a state official said that the politics is not the cause of the fire.
“We do not believe that it was politically motivated. There are a number of efforts to make it appear politically motivated,” Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who is also the state fire marshal, told the AP.
Greenville is one of the Mississippi River and the port city of approximately 32,100 people, and about 78 percent of the residents are African-American. While it’s not uncommon for people of different ethnic backgrounds to work and eat together, the local residents say that the municipalities in most of the churches remain clearly identifiable by race.
The cemetery was founded in 1905 in the heart of an African-American neighbourhood, and the municipality now has around 200 members. While some of the walls of the beige brick church survived the fire, the empty windows are boarded up, and the leaders of the church have said that the structure will probably be demolished. The reconstruction could take months.
After the fire, the Cemetery, church members began to worship in a chapel in a predominantly white First Baptist Church of Greenville. The Hopewell bishop, Clarence Green, said last month the generosity of the First Baptist demonstrates that “infinite love” transcends social barriers. James Nichols, senior pastor of the First Baptist, said the Hopewell members are welcome to stay as long as they need a home.
Greenville is in Washington County, a traditional Democratic stronghold in a solidly Republican state. In the Nov. 8 presidential election, Republican Donald Trump, easily carried Mississippi, but Democrat Hillary Clinton received more than twice the votes of the Trumpet in Washington County — 11,380 for Clinton to 5,244 for Trump.