Washington, D.C. police are looking into possible hate crimes after Black Lives Matter signs were torn down and burned at churches during a pro-Trump rally. Some of the incidents were caught on camera.
Over the weekend, fans of Donald Trump and members of the far-right, neo-fascist group Proud Boys stormed the streets of D.C. on their way toward Freedom Plaza, marching for Trump over his loss against President-elect Joe Biden. On Sunday, D.C. authorities said they launched an investigation after alleged hate crimes took place at Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, predominately Black churches.
“This weekend, we saw forces of hate seeking to use destruction and intimidation to tear us apart,” Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, said in a statement Sunday. “We will not let that happen, and continue to stand together strong and United to Love.”
Bowser went on to say that the police department and religious affairs have been communicating with the staff at churches that were harmed, NBC News reports. Asbury’s senior pastor, Rev. Ianther Mills, said in a statement that pro-Trumpers removed BLM signs from the church and “literally burned it in the street.”
“It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames,” she said. “For me, it was reminiscent of cross burnings.” Mills said seeing the hate crime on video made her “both indignant and determined to fight the evil that has reared its ugly head.” She continued: ”We had been so confident that no one would ever vandalize the church, but it has happened.”
Mills is talking about a video that has now gone viral that shows far-right protesters burning a Black Lives Matter sign just a few blocks east of the White House, according to NBC. Another video shows Trumpers and MAGA hatters tearing down a Black Lives Matter sign that was located near Metropolitan AME Church. In a statement regarding the hate crimes, Metropolitan wrote: “Black Lives Matter yesterday, today, and always.”
Yolanda Pierce, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, referred to the incidents as “acts of both racial terror and religious violence.” “Burning Black Lives Matter signs ripped from churches is an explicit threat to the sanctity of the Black church and to Black lives and freedom, even if the church itself is not historically Black,” she said.
The Proud Boys and Trump supporters burn the BLM banner while chanting and cheering in downtown DC: pic.twitter.com/L16azBBhbr
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) December 13, 2020