WASHINGTON (AA): A century-old historical black church in Mississippi was burned and vandalized in what police said amount to a hate crime.
Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville was set ablaze late Tuesday with “Vote Trump” graffiti painted on the exterior walls of the 111-year-old structure.
Pastor Carilyn Hudson of the church that has 200 black members said at a press conference that the major damage to the building was to the main sanctuary.
“We do believe that God will allow us to build another sanctuary in that same place,” she said without detailing the extent of the damage.
Hudson said there were no injuries during the incident and no one was in the church at that time.
The incident comes just one week ahead of the presidential elections in which Mississippi is a stronghold of Trump supporters.
Speaking at the same press conference, Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilson said investigators are still collecting evidence but there are no suspects.
Wilson characterized the arson as a “hate crime and “an attempt to intimidate voters.
“It tries to push your beliefs on someone else, and this is a church, a predominantly black church, and no one has a right to try and … pressure someone into the way they want to decide to vote in this election,” he added.
Greenville lies in western Mississippi City with a population of 33,000 and 78 percent of which is black, according to government data.
Mayor Eric Simmons said he expects residents to support Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.
The FBI is also involved in the investigation.
“We are working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to determine if any civil rights crimes were committed,” the bureau said in a statement.