11-21-2017  9:34 am      •     
MLK Breakfast
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NEWS BRIEFS

SEI, Sunshine Division Offer Thanksgiving Meals to Families in Need

Turkeys are being provided to fill 200 Thanksgiving food boxes for SEI families ...

NAACP Portland Monthly Meeting Nov. 18

Monthly general membership meeting takes place on Saturday, 12 - 2 p.m. ...

Multnomah County Animal Services Waives Adoption Fees Nov. 17

Special runs from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday ...

Fitzpatrick Presents 'Pathway 1000' Plan Before City Council

Plan would restore involuntary displacement by building 80 homes per year ...

Sisters Network to Hold Monthly Meeting Nov. 11

Meeting to take place Saturday morning at June Key Delta Center ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Local Author Visits North Portland Library

Renee Watson teaches students and educators about the power of writing ...

Is the FBI’s New Focus on “Black Identity Extremists” the New COINTELPRO?

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) talks about the FBI’s misguided report on “Black Identity Extremism” and negative Facebook ads. ...

ACA Enrollment Surging, Even Though It Ends Dec. 15

NNPA contributing writer Cash Michaels writes about enrollment efforts ...

Blacks Often Pay Higher Fees for Car Purchases than Whites

Charlene Crowell explains why Black consumers often pay higher fees than White consumers, because of “add-on” products. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

Bishop Clarence Green stands outside his fire damaged 200-member Hopewell M.B. Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. A Mississippi mayor is calling it a hate crime as arson investigators collect evidence at a black church that was heavily damaged by fire and tagged with "Vote Trump" in silver spray paint. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
ROGELIO V. SOLIS and BILL FULLER, Associated Press

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation of a fire that heavily damaged a black church in Mississippi where someone wrote "Vote Trump" in silver spray paint.

The Tuesday night fire heavily damaged the 200-member Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, where Mayor Errick Simmons on Wednesday called it a "heinous, hateful, cowardly act."

"We consider it a hate crime ... because of the political message which we believe was intended to interfere with worship and intimidate voters," Simmons said. "This act is a direct assault on people's right to freely worship."

The mayor said the FBI and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are assisting the investigation in the Mississippi River city, where about 78 percent of the 32,100 residents are African-American.

"The FBI Jackson Division is aware of the situation in Greenville, and we are working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to determine if any civil rights crimes were committed," state FBI spokesman Brett Carr said in an email.

He did not comment on whether it was being investigated as a possible hate crime. "At this point, it is too early in the investigation to determine what type of crime this could be," he said.

Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who has been campaigning for his party's presidential nominee Donald Trump, said "we expect a suspect will be identified and brought to justice."

"First, anyone who burns a place of worship will answer to almighty God for this crime against people of faith. But they should also answer to man's law," Bryant's statement said.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thopmson, a Democrat whose district includes Greenville, said the fire and graffiti "harkens back to a much darker day in Mississippi."

"The political message of the vandalism is obviously an attempt to sway public opinion regarding the upcoming election," he wrote in an emailed statement. "I encourage all citizens not to be deterred by this cowardly act and exercise your right to vote at the ballot box."

Fire Chief Ruben Brown said water from the hoses and heat from the fire also damaged the church's kitchen and the pastor's study. It was put out within 12 minutes, but it took an hour and a half to extinguish hot spots, he said.

Arson investigators also were at the scene Wednesday collecting evidence. Brown said the cause remains under investigation.

"We don't have any suspect at time, but we are possibly talking to a person of interest," Police Chief Delando Wilson said.

The mayor said "we will not rest until the culprit is found and fully prosecuted."

The congregation has existed for 111 years, and will rebuild on the same site, said pastor Caroline Hudson.

"The act that has happened has left our hearts broken but we are strong together," Hudson said. "We are not angry, but our hearts are broken."

Bishop Clarence Green called the fire troubling. He said that in his 21 years as bishop, the church had never been vandalized.

"The last time someone was at the church was Tuesday around 3," Green said.

Asked where the church members will meet this Sunday, Green said: "We'll have to work on that."

____

Fuller reported from New Orleans.

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