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Est. April 5, 2002
October 29, 2015 - Issue 627

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5 Black Churches
In Ferguson Area Burn
Media Shrugs

By Ben Forstenzer

"The destruction of black churches
and community activism is a popular
tactic among hate groups."

The major media networks have been eerily silent about the latest wave of racist violence.

Since October 8th, five black churches have been set on fire in the St. Louis area. And unlike the last wave of black church fires this summer in which weather played a role in some of the fires, these all appear to be the work of arsonists. The lack of media coverage about these fires is highly-noticeable, given the media’s hyper-intensive coverage of rioters in Baltimore setting fire to a CVS earlier this year.

“It is arson,” St. Louis Fire Department captain Garon Mosby told Fox 2 Saint Louis. “These are being intentionally set.”

This most recent wave of church fires are taking place in North St. Louis, near Ferguson, where racial tensions have been particularly high since the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. The department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is investigating the arsons.

On October 8th, the first fire was set at the Bethel Non-Denominational Church. Between October 10th and October 14th, three more churches were burned — New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, St. Augustine Catholic Church, and the New Testament Church of Christ. In the early hours of Saturday morning, another fire was set at the New Life Missionary Baptist Church. All 5 churches are within three miles of each other.

Prior to these latest church burnings, black churches were burned across the South following the June 17 killings of 9 people in the racially-inspired act of domestic terrorism at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Those fires raged in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. In that wave of fires, only three were ruled as arson. But as Capt. Mosby told local media, all 5 of these are being investigated as arson.

The destruction of black churches and community activism is a popular tactic among hate groups.

“Strike at the Black church, and you strike at the heart of Black American life,” said journalist, BC Executive Editor and commentator David A. Love.

According to The Atlantic, white supremacist and affiliated groups planted more than 50 devices targeting black churches, black leaders, Jews, and Catholics between 1947 and 1965. And for a 72-month stretch starting in January of 1995, there were 945 acts of suspected arson against places of worship, many of which were black churches. That rash of arsons led to the creation of the National Church Arson Task Force. The task force has since been disbanded.

As the #BlackLivesMatter movement gains momentum and power, the backlash from white supremacists appears to be intensifying. This powerful reaction from racists in the US has taken many forms — from pundits blaming acts of violence against police on the movement to local law enforcement rallying against it.

Give the rise of a new wave of racist violence against black churches, perhaps Congress should consider the creation of a new task force to both investigate those behind attacks on black churches and find ways to better protect places of worship from arson and vandalism. The First Amendment’s guarantee of the people’s right to worship freely should be the only justification needed for swift action to protect America’s churches from future acts of racist violence.

This commentary was originally published by U.S. Uncut Guest Commentator Ben Forstenzer is a labor organizer, writer and musician.

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is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers