Notre-Dame's ashes spark renewed push to rebuild torched Louisiana churches

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 17, 2019

Following the disastrous fire at Notre Dame in Paris and supportive tweets from Donald Trump and Mike Pence, Twitter users in America rallied to lend their dollars to the three black churches that were burned down in a hate crime by an arsonist earlier this month. That quick, generous response from around France and the rest of the world paled in comparison to relief efforts set up for the three Black churches in Louisiana burned down by a suspected white supremacist almost two weeks ago.

"It's all working out for the greater good", Jack said, when asked about the connection being made to the Notre Dame fire. The fires, all started with gasoline, occurred in and around Opelousas, about 60 miles west of Louisiana's capital city of Baton Rouge. Pleasant Baptist Church, in Opelousas, La.

Authorities at Monday's hearing also outlined new evidence that prosecutors say ties Matthews to the crimes. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas were burned.

Mr Matthews was arrested last week and charged with arson of a religious building before the state hate crime charges were added. He also posted a comment on a movie's portrayal of black metal musician Varg Vikernes, a far-right figure convicted of manslaughter and arson at three churches.

Holden Matthews, the man suspected of starting the fires, faces multiple charges in the case - including three hate crime counts.

The fires set the community on edge.

A GoFundMe page called "Seventh District Baptist Church Fires St Landry" has received just under $480,000 for the three black churches in Louisiana that were burned down by 21-year-old Holden Matthews. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the church burnings were a reminder "of a very dark past of intimidation and fear".

Matthews, shackled and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, never spoke to the court during Monday's hearing, letting his court-appointed lawyer enter the not guilty plea for him.

Matthews' attorney Quincy Cawthorne questioned some of the evidence cited by Browning and said Matthews didn't have the financial means to be a flight risk.

"In my mind, I felt another fire was imminent", Mr Browning said, describing the evidence investigators have found against Mr Matthews.

'France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame's bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil.

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