‘Politically Motivated’?

Member of Black Church That Was Burnt Down, ‘Vote Trump’ Scrawled on Its Side, Charged With Arson

The crime less than two weeks before the election received national attention.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

A 45-year-old member of a black church in Greenville, Mississippi, is in custody for burning it down in November, when the words “Vote Trump” were also spray painted on its side.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Andrew McClinton, of Leland, Mississippi, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday on a single charge of first-degree arson of a place of worship. The Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church was destroyed by the Nov. 1 fire.

McClinton, who’s African American, is a member of the church, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Bishop Clarence Green told the AP.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Cheney, who also serves as the state’s fire marshal, told the AP that investigators don’t believe McClinton’s crime was politically motivated, but added that “there may have been some efforts to make it appear politically motivated.”

A Facebook page that appears to belong to McClinton includes Donald J. Trump, public figure, among his handful of likes, with most of the others relating to Christianity.

The torching of Hopewell garnered national media attention at the time, less than two weeks before Donald Trump’s election upset. Trump did not address the crime on Twitter—as he has chosen to do with other national news events—instead issuing a statement on his campaign website.

“We are deeply saddened for the members of the Hopewell M.B. Church community and condemn in the strongest terms this terrible act that has no place in our society. We are grateful that no one was hurt and we urge witnesses with any information to come forward and help bring justice to those who are responsible,” the statement read.

Days after the fire destroyed the church, then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted, “This kind of hate has no place in America.”

Following the blaze, more than $200,000 was raised in online donations for the church, whose roughly 200 members have resumed services at a predominently white church in Greenville.

Marshall Wilson, a deacon at the church, told The Daily Beast just days after the fire that the building was a complete loss, and that the congregation planned to raze it and build a new house of worship.

McClinton has a criminal history that includes convictions for theft, robbery, and armed robbery. Most recently, McClinton was imprisoned for a 2004 armed robbery, according to the AP. His parole ended in February.

Sarah Bertness contributed to this report.