The St. Louis Fire Department and Missouri Division of Fire Safety announced today that there will be a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a string of arson attacks on churches throughout the city:
Six churches—five of which were confirmed by Mic as having predominantly black congregations—have been set on fire over the past two weeks. A fire department spokesperson described the attacks as arson during statements made to press on Saturday. Local fire and law enforcement departments are collaborating with the ATF to investigate the fires. Damage from the latest blaze, at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, was spotted around the front door on Sunday morning; the five other fires were set from the churches' front doors as well. No one has been injured in any of the blazes. The six churches attacked over the past two weeks are all located within three miles of one another. Mic created a map of the area showing the locations of the attacks:
The attacks echo a string of similar fires set primarily at predominantly and historically black churches throughout the South this summer in the aftermath of the racist massacre at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church. Both sets of burnings call back to similar attacks by white supremacists during the 1960s.
The proximinity of these churches to Ferguson—where then-officer Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown and sparked nationwide protests for police reform and an end to state violence against African Americans—is highlighted by many who revived the #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches hashtag (which was used during the aforementioned burnings):
— NAACP (@NAACP) October 20, 2015
Remember the epidemic of Black churches being burned down? We never found out #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches, they think we've forgotten.
— Kiaira ♡ (@BlvckConscious) October 18, 2015
— ShordeeDooWhop (@Nettaaaaaaaa) October 20, 2015
In a press conference held several minutes before press time (and directly after a vigil), area police chiefs announced that they will be jointly investigating the fires. But Chief Sam Dotson said they have not yet landed on a motive:
— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) October 21, 2015