Arrest of black man in black church fire stirs debates


    The arrest of a black man on a charge of burning a black Mississippi church that was spray-painted with the words “Vote Trump” has sparked bickering online and consternation in the community surrounding the church.

    Andrew McClinton, 45, made an initial court appearance Thursday in Greenville, a day after he was arrested and charged with a felony: first-degree arson of a place of worship. He requested a public defender and remained in jail with bond set at $250,000.

    McClinton, who lives in the Greenville suburb of Leland, spent several years in prison in Mississippi on convictions of armed robbery and other crimes. He is a member of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church of Greenville, which burned Nov. 1, a week before the presidential election.

    In the days after the church fire, Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons — an African-American who took office several months ago on a pledge of racial unity — urged officials to investigate it as a possible hate crime. The FBI said it would do so, but no hate crimes charges have been filed.

    Chris Orr, a Greenville resident and former police officer for the city, expressed frustration over the mayor’s early words about the fire.

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