Vandals struck the Zion Baptist Church overnight last Thursday by uprooting the large cross from the ground in front of the historic Black church and tossing it in a yard on Broadway.
Bishop Robert Brown said he was alerted to the vandalism Thursday morning and was incensed, but still doesn’t know the exact motives for what was done, but said there could be a number of possibilities.
Bishop Brown – who is the chair of the City’s new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Equal Employment Commission – has been outspoken lately in the Independent and on his RGB Internet Radio Program about the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, and he said initially he has wondered if it could be a hate crime directed at his speech. That, he said, is one possibility and, if true, such an act won’t cause him to back down.
He said it came on the back of another long-time historic Black church in Springfield, Canaan Baptist Church, being vandalized Thursday morning as well – their sign being spray painted.
“I’m prepared for it; I am completely prepared for it,” he said. “I’m not one of those kind of people that is quiet when stuff happens, if that’s what we have here. If it is, then it’s exactly what we’ve been saying – to stop the hate. We cannot be infringing on the right of people in our communities because we don’t like something someone said. We’ve had enough real problems – never mind this. This is minor in a sense, but major in a sense as well. You can’t say you don’t know what it is. It’s a cross with a purple cloth draped over it. What else could it be?”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said in a statement last Thursday he felt it was no accident, and was a hate crime directed at Zion Church.
“Early this morning a long-standing and integral member of the Everett community, Zion Baptist Ministries, had their property vandalized,” he wrote. “This was not an accident but a hate crime against Zion Ministries and their community. As Mayor, I’m repulsed and distraught that someone would intentionally vandalize a religious organization in our community. There is absolutely no room for any hate in Everett. I have the utmost faith that the Everett Police Department in partnership with the Massachusetts State Police will successfully investigate this crime and hold accountable those responsible for this heinous act. My thoughts and prayers are with Bishop Brown, Marcia Brown, and all members of Zion Ministries during this tragic time.”
Bishop Brown said it’s also possible that some issues with the neighbors could be playing out, maybe young people and perhaps some of the folks in the area that have been abusing drugs as of late.
Bishop Brown said there has also been quite a rat and rodent problem in the area as of late due to construction at the former St. Therese Church up the street, so that did lead to an issue with a problematic neighbor the previous day. He said there has been a lot of drug use and alcohol abuse in the area lately, and the church membership has been cleaning up needles, liquor bottles and other drug-related refuse from the property frequently, and someone engaging in those activities could also be to blame.
He said it could simply be someone with a mental health issues, and he urged that it would be important to find out the reasons for the action – even if that is the case.
“As small as it may seem, it’s hard,” he said. “If it turns out that it would be a young man with mental health issues, even with that you have to understand the nature of why that person would do this. It could be a sign of another thing.”
Everett Police responded immediately and have quite a few resources devoted to the matter, and were swarming the neighborhood Thursday morning looking for evidence, and Mayor Carlo DeMaria has pledged to get to the bottom of the act as soon as possible.
There is possibly surveillance video that could be used to figure out who it might be. If it’s someone the church can identify – a neighbor or such – that would be much better, he said, than if it were someone they didn’t know.
“If there is video and you see them doing this and we don’t know who it is, then you have to start to wonder what is behind it,” he concluded.