Notre-Dame fire sparks spike in support of black churches

Saul Bowman
April 20, 2019

The arson suspect, Holden Matthews, 21, is in custody on suspicion of starting the three fires over the past four weeks in and around the small city of Opelousas in St Landry parish, about 100 miles northwest of New Orleans.

As a result of the renewed awareness raised over the plight of the three historically black churches, and the message being shared by high profile figures, the churches exceeded their fundraising target in just three days, with more than 34,000 people donating to the cause.

Donations that totalled about $300,000 almost a week into the campaign surged to $1.5 million by Wednesday night.

"It's a blessing", said Rev. Gerald Toussaint, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, according to CNN.

The fires began on March 26 in St. Landry Parish, and within 10 days, three historically black churches were torched in what federal authorities are calling hate crimes.

Investigators also obtained surveillance photos of Matthews and his dad's Ford pickup truck, which investigators say he was driving minutes before the Greater Union Baptist Church caught fire, the affidavit said.

Native American Terrell Johnson, a 19-year-old Columbia University student and member of the Assiniboine Tribe, wondered: "Why are we not as anxious about these sites being hurt that are historic to our minority groups, rather than majority groups?"

However, she also took the opportunity to divert her followers' attention to three other churches devastated by fire that did not have billionaires queuing up to save them.

"As we hold Paris in our hearts today, let's also sent some love to our neighbours in Louisiana", a Tuesday tweet from Hillary Clinton read.

"I am not religious, but for the people that are, these churches are important", one person wrote.

And, in a way, the Notre Dame fire has helped the Louisiana churches.

"It's awful what happened to Notre Dame". Attacks on Black churches, using fire and other forms of violence, have always been used to intimidate the Black community and impede progress.

"It's all working out for the greater good", he said when asked about the connection being made to the Notre Dame fire. The three additional hate crimes charges - one for each blaze - were added Monday. Matthews-who faces both arson and hate crime charges- pleaded not guilty to all charges Monday, The Acadania Advocate reported.

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