Vandalism at four downtown Washington churches after rallies in support of President Trump Saturday is exposing rifts among people of faith as the nation confronts bitter post-election political divisions. Among the damaged houses of worship were two historically Black churches where people ripped down Black Lives Matter banners, with video posted to social media showing one banner being burned. Those defacements—which are being investigated as possible hate crimes, according to police—raised questions among some clergy and churchgoers about why more fellow Christians were not speaking out against the incidents, the AP reports. The Rev. Dr. Ianther Mills, senior pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church, issued a statement likening the torched banner to a cross burning and said she hopes more evangelical Christians condemn the destruction.
Mills also underscored that she didn't "want to make this into a political statement" and said her intention was to "move us all to greater healing and to more of a commitment to building a beloved community where all are welcome." The nearby Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church reported that vandals slashed a banner printed with colors supporting LGBTQ rights and rejecting "acts of hate or violence" against others. The tearing down of Black Lives Matter signs came after pro-Trump demonstrations in the capital that attracted a sizable number of Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group prone to violent encounters. Police in Washington are seeking public help in identifying suspects in the defacements, with the FBI's Washington field office also offering a reward. (Four people were stabbed in clashes after the DC rallies.)