Another predominantly black church was on fire Tuesday night, this time in a small town northwest of Charleston. The fire at Mt. Zion Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, follows several other fires at black churches since the Charleston shooting nearly two weeks ago in which an armed white man entered an African-American church and killed nine people.
The cause of the Zion AME church fire was not immediately known on Tuesday evening. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) recently began investigating the other fires, which number at least five in five states across the South and Midwest. Tuesday night’s fire is the second at a black church in South Carolina since the shooting; other occurred in Warrenville, South Carolina, on Sunday.
â€” Melissa Boughton (@mboughtonPC) July 1, 2015
Heavy fire at Mt Zion AME church near Greeleyville in Williamsburg County. Mutual aid dept's on scene. pic.twitter.com/GoQESXdJPS
â€” Carter Jones (@SCFireCarter) July 1, 2015
This would not be the first time that Zion AME Church has burned to the ground. In June 1995, the church was destroyed in a fire and investigators determined that the cause was arson. Members of the Ku Klux Klan were later arrested in connection to the fire, according to a recent profile of the church burning in the Los Angeles Times, which noted that the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to address the high number of fires in churches that year.
“This year alone there have been 21 church fires involving African American churches,” former Rep. Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at the time, and noted there was considerable evidence that some of these church fires were connected and that some were racially motivated incidents.”
Bill Clinton at Mount Zion AME in 1996. This church is burning again. pic.twitter.com/ego1NmfGDv
â€” Wyeth Ruthven (@wyethwire) July 1, 2015
Federal investigators looking into the other church burnings have indicated that there was no immediate reason to link any of the fires, however three of the first five were determined to be from arson.