Holden Matthews‘ arrested for allegedly burning down three historic Black churches in Louisiana came on Wednesday. But the suspected white supremacist was still getting sympathy in mainstream media coverage. The Associated Press made sure to report early on in its story Friday that Matthews’ friend said the man accused of racist arson was actually “a really sweet guy.”
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Nygyl Bryyn, another friend of the alleged terrorist, insisted his buddy was not racist.
“If he’s making a statement it’s against religion and establishment only, not against race,” Brynn said, ignoring the very American history of Black churches being burned down by white supremacists. “I don’t think he did it but if he did it would not be because the churches are Black.”
He also added, “We’ve got friends of all races.”
Instead of using a word like “relief” or “comfort” or “satisfaction” that the apparent threat Matthews, 21, posed had been eliminated with the arrest, the AP’s headline chose to say there was “Shock” that he was the suspect. That was in spite of some very damning evidence appearing to prove Hammond’s guilt.
CNN decided to use a headline that suggested the blame be shifted from Matthews to the “black metal” music he reportedly favored. Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal known for satanism and paganism, and neo-Nazi beliefs. It has been linked to “fires at Christian churches in Norway in the 1990s.”
Nonetheless, the NAACP is not looking to music to excuse racist violence. There has been a 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,” the civil rights organization said in a statement. “In African-American communities in the South, church burnings are historically linked to expressions of racism and domestic terrorism.”
The statement continued, “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.”
Matthews is reportedly the son of a St. Landry Parish Deputy Roy Matthews. The suspect Matthews lives in St. Landry Parish where the churches were burned just a few miles apart.
The three fires occurred in St. Laundry, a Louisiana 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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