Police in Berkeley, California, are seeking information about a woman captured on camera trying to set a Black church on fire.
“Watching the video, I feel it deeply,” Berkeley City Council member Ben Bartlett told KPIX. “It’s an attack on all of us, and going back in history, the fair housing act came from this neighborhood and when they were passing it, people threw bricks though their windows.”
Security footage shows that the woman approached Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church on Aug. 14 and attempted to tried to set it ablaze by throwing bricks at the window and pouring lighter fluid on the grass. The woman came back twice to try to get the fire to start but failed.
“By the grace of God the lighter wouldn’t take, it wouldn’t come on full force and nothing was being lit up,” said lead pastor Kevin Craddock II.
The incident is the second time in the past year or so a Black church in the area reportedly has been targeted with arson. In July 2020, a fire damaged the Way Christian Center.
When Craddock showed up to the church the next morning, he noticed damage to the window, then watched what transpired on surveillance video.
“It was very very painful. We couldn’t believe that this was happening,” he told KPIX, who also obtained footage of the incident. The woman’s attempt lasted seven minutes, including the time she spent leaving and returning to the building to try again.
Craddock believes the incident was racially motivated. “There’s no way you don’t know what you’re doing. You know this is an African American church and you know what lighting a fire to an African American church has been through the history,” he said.
As police ask for anyone with information about the woman or the arson attempt to reach out to authorities, Craddock wants to help the woman.
“We definitely need to know who this young lady is. We want to help her and I believe that you can live in harmony when they are in harmony,” Craddock said.
After The Way Christian Center was damaged in a fire last year, the Rev. Mike McBride said he believed the blaze was deliberately set after a Black Lives Matter banner was displayed.
“We are angry and we are upset, and there’s nothing more dangerous in the world than righteous indignation” he told ABC7 last year. It’s not clear if a suspect in the fire was ever apprehended.