The photo above shows the Mississippi state driver’s license of Andrew McClinton, a man who has been charged with spray-painting “Vote Trump” on the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, and then setting fire to the church. McClinton, who hails from Leland, Mississippi, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with first-degree arson of a place of worship. The fact that the 45-year-old was arrested by the Greenville Police Department, and was charged with setting the fire on November 1, only one week prior to the heated presidential election, is sending shockwaves through social media for those reacting to the fact that Andrew is African American.
As reported by Heavy, which has several Facebook photos of Andrew on their website, McClinton was also a member of the church that he set on fire. Bishop Clarence Green had not even heard that McClinton had been charged with setting the Greenville Hopewell Baptist Church on fire, according to the Associated Press. With the church appearing burned with “Vote Trump” painted on the side of the church, the assumption during the time of the fire by many in the public was that it represented a hate crime.
Meanwhile, the fire at the church caused the place of worship to be declared a total loss, according to the Clarion-Ledger, meaning it would take quite some time to be rebuilt for the 200 church members. Little did the public know at the time of the blaze that Andrew was one of the members of the church who would be later accused of setting it on fire. The church was founded in 1905.
As seen in the photo above from November 2, Wednesday, the words “Vote Trump” can be seen on the side of the church after the fire was put out.
Any motive that Andrew may have had for spray-painting “Vote Trump” on his own church and setting it on fire has not been released by authorities, but folks on social media have come to their own conclusion that it was a fake hate crime designed to make it seem as though supporters of President-elect Trump set the church on fire. Ironically, police say they don’t believe the fire was politically motivated — perhaps meaning that the fire instead was some sort of financial fraud.
McClinton previously did an eight-year stint in prison after an armed robbery conviction in 2004, as reported by the Associated Press.
Heavy links to a page that they claim is McClinton’s Facebook page, with the Facebook account showing that Andrew was married in 2015. Congratulations for that marriage can be seen in the Facebook comments section on McClinton’s Facebook page. Now Andrew could be facing anywhere from five to 30 years in prison if found guilty of the fire.
The GoFundMe page that was once set up for the church, and had raised more than $230,000, has been deleted in the wake of the controversy. The campaign originally spoke of how burning black churches was something used as a symbol of hate, as written by J. Blair Reeves, Jr.
“The animus of this election cycle combined with the potent racial history of burning black churches as a political symbol makes this event something we must not ignore. Only two weeks ago, the internet came together to help repair a North Carolina GOP field office that had been burned by thugs. Justice demands we do the same now. More details as they are available. Can we do this? Can we help show the world, the country, and most importantly, the churchgoers of Hopewell Baptist that we, as a society, are better than this?”
[Featured Image by Mississippi Department of Public Safety/AP Images]