Dec 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Vandals target historic Black churches during pro-Trump rallies in D.C.

Proud Boys march in support of President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, December 12

Proud Boys members march in support of President Trump in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Police are investigating as possible hate crimes the tearing down and burning of a Black Lives Matter banner and sign from two historic Black churches during unrest at pro-Trump protests in Washington, D.C., over the weekend.

Why it matters: Saturday's vandalism at the Asbury United Methodist Church and the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church are "acts of both racial terror and religious violence," per a statement from Yolanda Pierce, dean of D.C.'s Howard University School of Divinity.

  • Ianther Mills, a senior pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church, founded in 1836, said in a statement acts were "reminiscent of cross burnings," noting "we face an apparent rise in white supremacy."

Context: Historically, Black churches have been targeted by white supremacists in acts of violence in the U.S.

Driving the news: Violent clashes erupted in D.C. Saturday between supporters of President Trump who refuse to accept his election loss to President-elect Biden and counter-protesters.

  • The men, some dressed in "MAGA" hats, who were captured on video burning the banner at the Asbury United Methodist Church, were later identified as members of the far-right group the Proud Boys, according to the Washington Post.
  • Another video shows protesters tearing down the sign at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church and stomping on it while shouting: "Whose streets? Our streets."

What they're saying: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said in a statement Sunday that the Office of Religious Affairs and the Metropolitan Police Department are "engaging the impacted houses of worship."

"DC's faith-based organizations are at the very heart of our community, giving us hope in the face of darkness. They embody our DC values of love and inclusivity. An attack on them is an attack on all of us. This weekend, we saw forces of hate seeking to use destruction and intimidation to tear us apart. We will not let that happen."
— Bowser
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