Berkeley church fire: Pastor believes fire was deliberately set after hanging BLM banner

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ByEric Thomas KGO logo
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Berkeley church fire: Pastor believes fire was deliberately set after hanging BLM banner
The senior pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley believes a fire was deliberately set to his church the same day they hung up a Black Lives Matter banner.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- There's a visible scar of scorch marks and bubbled paint at the rear of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley. And below that, evidence of a fire, deliberately set, that melted two large plastic trash bins and blackened a metal one.

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The Rev. Mike McBride is the church's senior pastor.

"We are angry and we are upset, and there's nothing more dangerous in the world than righteous indignation" he says.

The Way Church has been around for forty years, and Pastor McBride has been a fervent civil rights activist in the community.

Damage to the building may appear slight, but authorities told McBride an accellerant was used. He believes someone was trying to burn down the church - because a Black Lives Matter banner was put up Tuesday afternoon. He says the fire happened Tuesday night.

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"We know this is a historical legacy of intimidation" he says.

McBride calls it a hate crime. He also held up a piece of paper - about the size of what you would find in a small notepad and says not only is he upset with the culprit, he's angry with the way police responded.

"The only notification I received, our church received, was this report slid underneath the front of our church" he said.

ABC-7 News spoke with Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin who says he's disappointed that this happened in one of America's most progressive cities, and he too is disappointed in the police response.

"Just slipping your business card under the door is not acceptable. Any place of worship, whether it's a church or a synagogue, we have to take that very seriously as a potential hate crime" the mayor said.

Arreguin says he's told the city manager and police to investigate it as a hate crime, and to make the case a top priority.