St. Louis Fire Captain Garon Mosby speaking to media outlets recently stated, “It is arson. These [fires] are being intentionally set.” Mosby also indicated that the likelihood that the fires are in fact hate crimes motivated by religious or racial bigotry “is part of the dynamic” in the ongoing investigation that is being conducted jointly with the St. Louis Regional Bomb Unit and the Beau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Adding to suspicion is the fact that the fires took place at churches that are all located in predominately Black neighborhoods, and the churches are also all within a three-mile radius of Ferguson. The first church to burn was the Bethel Non-Denominational Church on October 8; two days later, the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church was set on fire. Both churches are in Jennings. Minerva-St. Augustine Catholic Church and New Testament Church of Christ followed on October 14 and October 15, and then over the weekend, New Life Missionary Baptist Church and Ebenezer Lutheran Church were set on fire.
Speaking to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, journalist and commentator David Love states, “This is alarming because domestic terrorism is alive and well. It is such a problem that the US Department of Justice recently predicted increases in violent acts by white extremists who are responding to a new reality in which people of color will become a majority in America.”
Love goes on to point out, “It is interesting, and more than coincidence, that St. Louis has also witnessed a great deal of racial tension and violence in light of the events in Ferguson. In an environment which fosters government sponsored racism – police violence against Black residents, racial profiling and economic exploitation through a system of court fees amounting to a Black debtor’s prison – it does not take such a stretch of the imagination to consider that some private citizens may feel emboldened to take matters in their own hands.”
The suspected arsons near Ferguson follow a string of arsons four months ago that occurred in the days after the violent rampage at Emanuel AME Church where a white supremacists gunned down nine parishioners.