Protesters tore down and burned a Black Lives Matter sign and banner at two historic black churches during Saturday evening's rallies as supporters of President Donald Trump and counterprotesters clashed in Washington, D.C.
Police said Sunday they were investigating what appeared to be potential hate crimes at Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan A.M.E. Church where a BLM banner and sign were torn down, The Associated Press reported.
“We take these offenses seriously and we are currently investigating them as possible hate crimes,” a D.C. spokesperson told WTOP News.
Videos posted on social media showed a crowd of men taking down a BLM sign at Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, founded in 1838, and another group of men burning a BLM banner in the street.
The Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills, the senior pastor at Asbury church, compared the incident with “cross burnings.”
“It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames,” she said in a statement. “For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings. Seeing this act on video made me both indignant and determined to fight the evil that has reared its ugly head… We will move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter and we are obligated to continue to shout that truth without ceasing.”
Pastor William H. Lamar IV, who leads Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, said he was “speechless” when he was first informed about the vandalism.
He was told by Thomas Bowen, director of the D.C. mayor’s office of religious affairs, that members of the controversial far-right Proud Boys had torn down their BLM sign and stomped on it.
“Their doing violence to that sign is more than doing violence to that sign. They seek to continue the violence their ancestors visited upon our ancestors. They don’t want to just ruin signs, they want to destroy lives, they want to destroy hope, they want to erase history,” Lamar said Sunday during a worship service livestream. “And they’re not going to be able to do that. We won’t let them do that.”
“This assault is but a foretaste of what is possible from these people. These people who are as far from God as the east is from the west, … who want their dehumanization to cause us to be less human but we will refuse as we have always done. We also will protect what our ancestors gave to us. … We will not be silent, we will not be intimidated, we will not be afraid.”
Thousands of Trump’s supporters, who argue that the presidential election was stolen from Trump, protested in downtown D.C. Saturday. Four people were stabbed and at least 33 people were arrested during clashes with counterprotesters. D.C. police said that it amounted to the most protest-related arrests in a single day since Aug. 13, during the George Floyd protests.
During the Floyd protests, the historic St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., was vandalized with the basement torched by protesters.