“Black Lives Matter” signs have been drawing unwanted attention to businesses and family homes, making many supporters of the movement very viable targets.
At his sentencing this past summer, a Michigan man admitted to targeting a Black family’s home in 2019 because of the BLM sign in a front window. Michael Frederick Jr. fired bullets into the family’s home, threw rocks through their front windows and graffitied their cars over several days.
Last month, Proud Boys leader Henry Tarrio was sentenced to more than five months in prison for burning a Black Lives Matter banner from Asbury United Methodist Church, a historically Black church in Washington D.C.
In another case, a white man was caught on video tearing a BLM sign out of a Chicago family’s front lawn.
Now, federal investigators and fire officials are looking into a possible arson fire at a century-old church in Portland, Maine, which had a Black Lives Matter sign hanging out front. According to the Portland Press Herald, Portland New Church members believe it may have been racially motivated.
From Press Herald:
It appeared to be set in an area where a Black Lives Matter sign had been posted, according to Lorraine Kardash, the church pastor and building manager. The sign, which had been displayed outside the church for at least a year, was later found by investigators in bushes near the church.
Neighbors who spotted the fire called for help and rushed across the street with buckets of water to try to put it out, Kardash said. They did not see any suspects at or near the scene, she said.
Members of the fire department were able to put the flames out in just a few minutes. The fire damaged the front wall, but both the inside entryway and structure of the church remain intact. No one was injured, Press Herald reports. The Portland police and fire departments and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating. It is standard procedure for the ATF to be involved with church fire cases.
President of the church council, Rev. Anne Gresinger, told the Press Herald that a diversity banner used to hang in the church. However, in the past several months, it was removed. She is unsure if the banner’s removal is connected to the fire, but she believes someone is trying to make a statement.
“It certainly seems like someone is making a statement about not being OK with those things,” she said to the Press Herald. “Hopefully, the investigation will clarify things. They are asking a whole lot of questions and talking to neighbors. We’re told they do have some leads, so we may learn something soon.”
According to the Boston Globe, Portland New Church’s pastor, Lorraine Kardash, said the Black Lives Matter sign will be going back up. She also told the Globe that she believes someone started the fire.
A peace picnic, meant to showcase support for diversity, is planned for Oct. 10 in the church’s front yard.