THE burning of Black Lives Matter banners torn down from the front of churches in Washington, DC, during a pro-Trump march is being treated as a hate crime, police have confirmed.
Banners were torn down from four, including two historically Black churches. One pastor compared the incidents to cross burnings (associated with the Ku Klux Klan). The Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd Mariann Budde, said that people of faith who supported the protests against President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory were making a “mockery of our faith”.
A new banner was consecrated and “resurrected” days after it had been torn down at Asbury Methodist Church, which received an “outpouring of support” from the wider community.
Asbury Methodist was one of the historically Black churches damaged during a protest on 12 December by supporters of President Trump, who included members of the white-supremacist group the Proud Boys.
The Pastor, Dr Ianther Mills, said that the burning of the banner “was reminiscent of cross burnings”. She said: “We are a people of faith. As horrible and disturbing as this is for us now, it doesn’t compare with the challenges and fears the men and women who started Asbury, 184 years ago, faced. So, we will move forward, undaunted in our assurance that black lives matter, and we are obligated to continue to shout that truth without ceasing. We are assured that our church is surrounded by God’s grace and mercy.
“Sadly, we must point out that if this was a marauding group of men of colour going through the city, and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested. We are especially alarmed that this violence is not being denounced at the highest levels of our nation, and, instead, the leaders of this movement are being invited to the White House.”
Another Washington church, Luther Place Memorial, said that its Black Lives Matter sign had been stolen, and had been replaced. Footage on social media showed another sign at Metropolitan AME Church — which, like Asbury Methodist, is a historically Black congregation — being ripped by protesters.
The police have said that they are investigating the attacks as hate crimes.
At another church, Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, a banner with colours supporting LGBTQ rights was slashed.
Some members of the affected churches have questioned why there has not been more of an outcry. A member of Metropolitan AME, Cornell William Brooks, said: “When Evangelicals can speak on behalf of unborn babies, can speak on behalf of law and order when it comes to white people and white property, but are silent when it comes to banners that proclaim Black Lives Matter, the moral silence is stupefying. We’ve gone from having to say black lives matter, to have now having to say, black churches matter.”
Bishop Budde and the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, the Very Revd Randy Hollerith, issued a statement saying that those religious leaders who supported such pro-Trump rallies were making a “mockery of our faith”. “What we are witnessing is nothing less than idolatry: the worship of someone other than God as though he were God.
“The blatant racism of this lost cause is alarming. Such hatred grieves the very heart of God, and we cannot turn a blind eye to such displays of white supremacy.”