Arson Strikes Another Church

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: There were urgent new calls for a federal investigation into the arson striking southern black churches after still another church was set afire late Thursday. The Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., which lost a building in the blaze, was the second black church struck by fire this week, and the 29th since early 1995. At least five arrests have been made in connection with the fires that have erupted across the south, but investigators have yet to find proof of any interstate conspiracy. Although the majority of the fires have been reported in Tennessee, TIME's Lisa Towle reports a growing number of fires and arson threats in North Carolina. "Three weeks ago, three churches in the Durham area, as well as a hotel that was hosting a NAACP fund-raising function, received anonymous threats," says Towle. "The day the fires were supposed to take place, whites streamed into the black churches in a show of unity and solidarity. It was a beautiful sight to behold. This is something that never would have happened 35 years ago." The recent rash of burnings, eerily reminiscent of the civil rights era burnings, have prompted the NAACP chapter in Charlotte and others to adopt measures designed to prevent these attacks, Towle says. They are planning church watches and community-wide patrols. "The NAACP is likely to play a leading role in trying to find out who is starting these fires.". Lamia Abu-Haidar