Updated April 11, 2019, 1:45 p.m., EDT
After authorities announced the arrest of Holden Matthews for burning down three historic Black churches in Lousiana, the NAACP underscored the rise in white supremacy and hate crimes across the nation since President Donald Trump took office.
“The arrest of Holden Matthews for the horrific burnings of Black churches in Louisiana is just another example of the hate fueled times that we live in. In African-American communities in the South, church burnings are historically linked to expressions of racism and domestic terrorism,” the statement said. “This is the same domestic terrorism that has been the hammer and chisel used to chip away at the humanity of Black Americans and the suppression of our political power.”
Authorities arrested a White man who reportedly frequents online sites with large neo-Nazi fan bases and charged him for a series of recent Black church burnings in Louisiana.
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KATC-TV identified the suspect as 21-year-old Holden Matthews—the son of a St. Landry Parish deputy. Police arrested Matthews on Wednesday evening and booked him into the St. Landry Parish jail.
Authorities did not immediately identify a motive for the destruction of three historic Black churches that were burned down between the end of March and early April.
U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph confirmed in a statement released on Wednesday that “a suspect has been identified in connection with the three church burnings in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is in state custody.” Joseph added that his office, the ATF, FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and those St. Landry Parish residents affected by these despicable acts.”
The suspect’s father, Deputy Roy Matthews, turned him in to authorities, according to CBS News. Holden Matthews lives in Saint Landry Parish where the churches burned just a few miles apart. His social media presence shows that he was into black metal music, an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music, and the lead singer for a band called Vodka Vultures.
A Facebook page that apparently belongs to Matthews showed that he was also active with pagan pages, the Daily Beast reported. Both the black metal and pagan pages “have large neo-Nazi fan bases.”
Matthews commented on memes about the far-right political activist and black metal music icon Varg Vikernes who was convicted in 1994 for burning three churches in Norway. Vikernes is highly regarded among white supremacists, including Anders Breivik, who sent him a copy of his manifesto before killing 77 people in a 2007 terrorist attack in Norway.
The three fires occurred in St. Laundry, a Lousiana parish north of Lafayette, between March 26 and April 4. The fires destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church in the community of Port Barre, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas. Each of the three churches is more than 100 years old and one of them had been remodeled just two years ago. The churches were fortunately vacant when the fires started so there were no reported injuries.
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