Hearing set for man charged in ‘Vote Trump’ church burning

Hearing set for man charged in 'Vote Trump' church burning

JACKSON, Miss. — A court hearing is set for a Mississippi man charged in the burning of the black church he attended that was spray-painted with “Vote Trump.”

Andrew McClinton has been jailed under $250,000 bond since he was arrested Dec. 21 and charged with first degree arson of a place of worship.

McClinton, who is black, is accused of setting fire to the church where he was a member, Hopewell Missionary Baptist in Greenville. It was burned and vandalized Nov. 1, a week before the presidential election.

During a preliminary hearing Thursday, a public defender could request a bond reduction for McClinton, and a municipal judge could hear evidence and decide whether to send the case to a grand jury.

McClinton, 45, lives in the Greenville suburb of Leland. Mississippi Department of Corrections records show he spent several years in prison on convictions of armed robbery and other crimes.

Officials haven’t revealed what led to McClinton’s arrest. Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who is also the state fire marshal, said investigators don’t believe the fire and vandalism were politically motivated, despite happening during the contentious presidential election season.

Greenville is a Mississippi River port city and hub of commerce in the cotton-growing delta. About 78 per cent of its 32,100 residents are African-American.

Hopewell was founded in 1905 in the heart of an African-American neighbourhood, and the congregation now has about 200 members. Some walls of the beige brick church survived the fire, but the remaining walls of the structure were recently torn down. Rebuilding could take months.

Since the fire, Hopewell members have been worshipping in the chapel at First Baptist Church of Greenville, a predominantly white congregation that says Hopewell can stay as long as it needs a home.

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Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press