A historic black church was set on fire in Greenville, Mississippi, on Tuesday night and an appeal for votes for Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, was found spray-painted on one of its walls. Authorities are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Though no one was injured, the church itself was extensively damaged.
“We’re investigating this as a hate crime,” Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilson told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday. “We feel that the quote on the church is intimidating.”
The quote he was referring to was this: “Vote Trump”.
“It tries to push your beliefs on someone else, and this is a predominantly black church and no one has a right to try to influence the way someone votes in this election,’ the police chief added.
The FBI said in a statement it was investigating the incident to ascertain if “civil rights crimes were committed”.
Though no one had been arrested, investigators were interviewing a “person of interest”, according to reports.
Though the Republican nominee has denied it repeatedly and strenuously, he has been accused of fanning racism with his remarks and seen as flirting with white supremacists whose support for his campaign he has been slow to denounce or condemn.
The Trump campaign condemned the incident. “We are deeply saddened for the members of the Hopewell MB Church community and condemn in the strongest terms this terrible act that has no place in our society,” it said in a statement. “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.”