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Three historically black churches were burned over ten days in southern Louisiana in recent weeks. (Photo: @Essence/Twitter)

Calls for Probe Into White Supremacy and Domestic Terrorism After Arrest for Arson Attacks on Black Churches

A man was arrested for allegedly committing arson at three black churches in Louisiana over 10 days

Julia Conley

Civil rights advocates on Thursday called for a serious examination of racist hate crimes and domestic terrorism in the wake of arson attacks on three black churches in Louisiana.

Authorities announced that they had arrested Holden Matthews, a 21-year-old suspect accused of setting fire to three historically black churches in southern Louisiana over the course of 10 days. Matthews, who is white and the son of the deputy sheriff of St. Landry Parish, was charged with three counts of arson.

The NAACP argued that the church burnings, which are reminiscent of several similar incidents which took place throughout the South in the civil rights era, should be investigated as a racist hate crime.

"This is the same domestic terrorism that has been the hammer and chisel used to chip away at the humanity of Black Americans and the suppression of our political power," the group said in a statement.

The group noted that crimes linked to white supremacy have been on the rise since President Donald Trump took office and called on the federal government to lead in the fight against domestic terror attacks:

Since Trump has taken office, we've seen a rise in white supremacy and hate crimes—so much so that we issued letters to push both the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees of the House of Representatives to hold hearings for the resurgence of hate and raced based crimes that are overcoming the nation. Change must come from the top and we will continue to push Congress for additional hearings and concrete next steps to thwart acts of terrorism against communities of color.

Local officials in Louisiana noted publicly that Matthews had been interested in "black metal" music, which has been linked to white supremacist groups which burned churches in Norway in the 1990s. As Daily Beast reported:

A Facebook page that appeared to belong to Matthews showed he was active in pagan and black metal pages, and that he commented on two memes about far-right former neo-Nazi metal musician Varg Vikernes, who served 15 years in prison for killing a fellow metal musician and burning churches in Norway.

Some on social media cautioned the news media not to suggest that the suspect was simply influenced by an anti-religion philosophy, noting that a potential connection to racism should be investigated seriously.


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