Date: Wed, 5 Jun 1996 09:12:24 -0500
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Outrage over rash of Black church fires
World Combined Sources, People's Weekly World, 25 May 1996
WASHINGTON - Black lawmakers, outraged over a rash of Black church fires in the Southeast, used a House hearing to question the government's commitment to solving the crimes.
Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, criticized the House Judiciary Committee for taking so long to schedule a hearing into the string of 25 arsons since January 1995.
Payne said the delay was particularly disturbing in light of several weeks of hearings the committee held last year into the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, and the 1992 shootout at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
"We should have the same effort put into church burnings," said Payne. "There is a disparity in the way justice is being dispensed in this country."
Another Black lawmaker, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), questioned whether the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have committed sufficient resources to investigating the church fires.
She complained that more than 100 federal agents have spent the past 57 days at the standoff with the Montana Freemen, and federal authorities have spent millions of dollars in the past four years investigating President Clinton's Whitewater real estate deals.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), the panel's most outspoken critic of federal law enforcement agents during the Waco and Ruby Ridge hearings, sprang to their defense when Jackson-Lee questioned their commitment to solving the crimes. The investigation has been a "hallmark of the professionalism" of federal agents, he claimed.
The 25 fires include six in Tennessee, five each in Louisiana and South Carolina, four in Alabama, three in Mississippi and one each in Virginia and Georgia, said ATF Director John Magaw.
Seven arrests have been made and a conspiracy involving two fires in South Carolina has been uncovered, he said. But, he added, the agency has "not yet - and I emphasize not yet - found any evidence of an interstate or national conspiracy."
Peoples Weekly World
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