Days after a “Black Lives Matter” banner in front of Asbury United Methodist Church was stolen and destroyed during a pro-Trump rally, the historic Black church in northwest D.C. held an event Friday morning to put up a new one.

Rev. Ianther Mills, Asbury’s senior pastor, was joined Friday by an ecumenical group of ministers during an outdoor service in front of the 184-year-old church.

D.C. police earlier this week released photos of the banner being burned on the street in front of the church during the pro-Trump demonstration Saturday, while religious leaders and city officials alike condemned the acts and vowed solidarity.

“That banner was removed by trespassers, that banner was removed by domestic terrorists, that banner was removed by those who promote hate,” said Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, the episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. “They used fire to bring people to silence, but we will not be silent.”

Several other pastors in the city said signs at their churches also have been destroyed.

The department is investigating the incidents as potential hate crimes, said D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham.

On Thursday, Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the far-right group Proud Boys, took responsibility for setting the fire at Asbury and dared authorities to arrest him for it.

While several African American pastors question whether D.C. police have done enough to protect their churches and prevent such incidents, Rev. Thomas Bowen, director of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Religious Affairs, said the mayor is strongly focused on keeping all churches safe.

“There were no permits issued for those who came into Washington, D.C. with hate,” said Bowen, adding that federal officials issue permits and none had been issued since the coronavirus pandemic. “We are a community of love, inclusion and diversity.”

Bowen, citing a famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr., said, “When one is impacted directly, it impacts all of us indirectly.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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