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Black Church's 'Vote Trump' Arson Wasn't What It Seemed

Member of Mississippi church that burned a week before the election is arrested
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 22, 2016 3:33 AM CST

(Newser) – It made national headlines a week before the election: Someone set fire to a black church in Mississippi and painted the words "Vote Trump" on the building. Now authorities think they've got the arsonist, and they say the idea that a Donald Trump supporter did this was a ruse, reports the Clarion-Ledger. Police in Greenville arrested 45-year-old Andrew McClinton, who is an African-American member of the congregation of Hopewell Baptist Church. "We do not believe it was politically motivated," state insurance commissioner Mike Chaney tells the AP. "There may have been some efforts to make it appear politically motivated."

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Authorities have not speculated about a motive but, so far, McClinton has not been charged with a hate crime, though he is charged with first-degree arson of a place of worship. "We do not know if the federal government will pursue that as such because we do not have a motive," says a city spokesperson. The Nov. 1 fire destroyed the church, which was founded in 1905 and now has about 200 members. It's expected to take months to rebuild. McClinton served seven years in prison for armed robbery before his release in 2012, notes the AP. (Read more arson stories.)

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