Black church in South Carolina burns, cause unknown

2015-07-01 09:50
Smoke rises from Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in Greeleyville, South Carolina. (Veasey Conway, The Morning News via AP)

Smoke rises from Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in Greeleyville, South Carolina. (Veasey Conway, The Morning News via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Columbia - An African-American church in South Carolina that was burned down by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan in 1995 caught fire again Tuesday night, though authorities said it was too soon to say what caused the latest blaze, which broke out on a night of frequent storms.

No one was believed to be inside at the time.

The fire at the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in Greeleyville broke out at a time when federal authorities are investigating conflagrations at several other predominantly black churches in the South — including one on Friday at a church near Aiken, South Carolina — but so far the fires don't appear to be related.

Greeleyville is a town of about 400 people around 80km north of Charleston, where a pastor and nine members of a historic black church were fatally shot on June 17 in what authorities are investigating as a hate crime.

Agents from the State Law Enforcement Division were on their way to the Greeleyville church before the fire was out, Division Chief Mark Keel said. But he said they will have to wait until the hot spots are extinguished before using dogs and other investigative tools to figure out what started it. He said investigators will be on the scene first thing on Wednesday morning.

"We do know they apparently had some strong storms," Keel said. "Talked to a guy who said they had a lot of lightning down there tonight. I don't know whether that had anything to do with it at all."

‘Tough thing to see’

The image of orange flames coming from the same church the KKK burned down 20 years ago brought up painful memories, said Williamsburg County Councilman Eddie Woods Jr, who got out of bed to drive to the church after hearing about the fire.

"That was a tough thing to see," Woods said. "It is hurting those people again. But we're going to rebuild. If this was someone, they need to know that hate won't stop us again."

All of the fires currently under investigation broke out days after the fatal shootings at Charleston's historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dylann Storm Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in the shootings, and the FBI is investigating possible links between the 21-year-old white man and a hate manifesto that showed up online along with photos of him.

Previous fire

Mount Zion AME Church burned down on June 20, 1995. Two Ku Klux Klan members pleaded guilty to starting that fire and a second at another predominantly black church. They were each sentenced to nearly two decades in prison.

Speaking at the church in 1996, President Bill Clinton implored people not to respond to what was a string of nearly three dozen church fires — many of them racially motivated — with the same hatred that drove the people who started the blazes. He gave the church a plaque to commemorate his visit, and noticed membership had grown four times over since the fire.

"The American people are the most religious, church-going people of any great democracy," Clinton said. "We cannot let someone come into our democratic home, the home of our faith, and start torching our houses of worship."

Read more on:    us  |  fires

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
11 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.