Following hard on the heels of its report on a prayer event and rally held yesterday for the six predominantly African-American churches hit by arson in the St Louis area since October 8th, the St Louis Post-Dispatch now reports that a seventh church, this time mostly white, was targeted in the early hours of this morning.
From the earlier story:
Whoever set fire to six area churches in the past two weeks “underestimates the strength we have,” St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Wednesday.
The person or persons behind the arson “picked a fight they cannot win,” Dotson said to a packed crowd inside the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, which straddles the St. Louis and Jennings border.
…Dotson said investigators continued to aggressively work the case. They cautioned that it was too early to know why the six churches had beene targeted. The churches sit in black neighborhoods with predominately black congregations.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the Southern Law Poverty Center, agreed with Dotson, saying that statistically, the number of church fires racially motivated in recent years has been “a very, very small percentage.
“That said, it is not at all surprising to find African-Americans legitimately concerned. The African-American church has been under attack from white supremacists since the early 19th century, attacked again and again to hold black people down.”
The latest fire “breaks the mold” of the earlier incidents.
Thursday’s fire was reported at 1:08 a.m. Thursday at the Shrine of St. Joseph, at 1220 North 11th Street. The Catholic church is on the outskirts of downtown in what’s known as Columbus Square.
The Rev. Dale Wunderlich, who serves as priest at the church, said the church has some congregants who are black and a number of Filipino heritage, but most people who attend Mass there each week are white.
“It’s kind of a mystery — why would anybody want to vandalize a place like the Shrine of St. Joseph?” Wunderlich said. “I feel a sort of kinship with the other pastors” whose churches were damaged by fire.
No one was in the rectory when the fire set off alarms that automatically called out the fire service to respond. They were able to put out the fire, which damaged the wooden doors of the building, with a hand-held fire extinguisher.
NPR adds to its report:
St. Louis City Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson told KMOX-TV that the fire at the Shrine of St. Joseph was “very similar-type fire, as compared to the other six church fires.”
As we’ve reported, the string of fires is being investigated by local and federal authorities. The ACLU of Missouri has suggested that the arson attacks may be racially motivated and called the fires “domestic terrorism.”
This updates the Cafe’s Tuesday story about the St Louis church fires.
Photo: Shrine of St Joseph, via shrineofstjoseph.org