KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Dozens of community members met at a Knoxville African-American church Sunday afternoon with one question: Who’s burning black churches in the South?
Arson investigators said a fire at College Hill Seventh-Day Adventist church in June was a case of vandalism.
WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the Knoxville Police Department about the incident. Spokesman Darrell DeBusk said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and FBI determined the church burning was not a hate crime.
David Hayes is one of many Knoxville community organizers who put together a Righteous Resistance Rally Sunday afternoon at College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was the first of a handful of church fires in the South following the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Many believe these acts are hate crimes.
“We want an attack on the black community and our scared worship places to be taken seriously and we want it investigated. We want them to put their resources into finding out who did this violence against us,” said Hayes.
“It’s our duty to fight for our freedom,” the crowd chanted.
Sunday’s rally brought together people from all different races and religions, and opened discussions about what is really going on behind these fires in the South.
“We refuse to have our concerns dismissed as paranoia,” said Rev. Chris Buice, a minister at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
“We will not accept this attitude of racism and hatred and violence,” said Imam Rafiq Mahdi.
Despite the fire late last month, Pastor Hobdy III says the church has still had worship services there every Saturday. He also said that renovations on their building will begin soon.