People Knew It Was White Hate: Louisiana Church Arson Suspect Indicted With Federal Hate Crime Charges

People Knew It Was White Hate: Louisiana Church Arson Suspect Indicted With Federal Hate Crime Charges

There was a time when Holden Matthews' setting fire to three historically black churches was seen as influence of 'black metal' music.

Three historic African-American Churches were burned down in a span of 10 days, in and around the city of Opelousas, Louisiana in March earlier this year. A chain of events that re-kindled memories from U.S history of racism and KKK burning down Black churches. 


According to CBS News, the U.S Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it's filing federal hate crime charges against Holden Matthews - in the light of alarming evidence that connected him to with three fires that destroyed African American churches. 


21-year-old Holden Matthews, the son of a sheriff's deputy, faces three counts of "intentional damage to religious property," - which is classified as a hate crime under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996. He's also charged with three counts of "using fire to commit a felony."


 Authorities believe that Holden targetted the three churches because the congregations of those churches are predominantly and historically Black. If convicted on the three federal hate crime charges, Matthews faces up to 20 years in prison per count. Additional decades could be added for the other charges.


"Churches are vital places of worship and fellowship for our citizens and bind us together as a community.  Our freedom to safely congregate in these churches and exercise our religious beliefs must be jealously guarded,"  U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph said in a statement. "Today we are one step closer to justice for the parishioners of these churches and the St. Landry Parish communities affected by these acts."


Matthews already faced state charges in the church burnings, which also include hate crimes, indicating authorities believe the fires were racially motivated. Matthews, who is white, has pleaded not guilty in the state case.


When Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning testified in a local court in April, he said that the investigators have "unequivocal" evidence against Matthews.

Browning had described the cellphone records which placed Matthews at the fire locations, and he said images on the phone showed all three churches burning before law enforcement arrived and showed Matthews "claiming responsibility" for the fires. 


"He has clearly demonstrated the characteristics of a pathological fire-setter," Browning said. 

There was a brief period of time when the police were observing Mattews' interest in 'black metal' - an extreme subgenre of heavy metal. The music has been linked, in some instances, to fires at Christian churches in Norway in the 1990s.


However, the racial undertones of the entire thing are not being unseen by the authorities and the people who have been regular worshippers at the African-American churches - that carried centuries of history and faith of the people. 


The three churches ― St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church ― received waves of monetary support in the days and weeks after they burned. The fires destroyed decades’ worth of historical records and razed the structures, according to The New York Times.

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