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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke August 27, 2020

No, BLM protesters didn’t burn down a Black church in Kenosha

If Your Time is short

  • A fire that was set at a used-car dealership adjacent to Bradford Community Church in Kenosha, Wis., burned the church’s sign, which said "Black Lives Matter."
  • The church did not burn down, and the church’s minister said he does not think the church was a target.
  • The church is in the city’s historic downtown and "relatively close" to what would be considered a Black neighborhood, the minister said, but the congregation is largely white.

Amid the unrest over the shooting of Jacob Blake by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23, misinformation has spread on social media. 

One Facebook post shows a fiery scene behind a sign that says "Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist" with "Black Lives Matter" on the marquee. 

"BLM rioters just burned down a black church in a black community with a BLM sign out front," the Aug. 25 post says, describing the image. "Remind me what the protests are about again…?

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

The image in the Facebook post also appears on the homepage of the Kenosha church’s website. The church was not burned during protests, according to its minister, the Rev. Erik David Carlson. 

"Despite the fact that we cannot condone the violent response to injustice, we understand and appreciate the anger and frustration that fueled the events of last night," Carlson wrote in a message on the church’s website. "While we are relieved that our church home mostly survived the inferno in the lot next door, we affirm that we would rather lose 100 buildings than one more life to police violence."

In the photo that appears on Facebook, the fire behind the church’s sign is burning a used-car dealership next door, not the church. Ultimately, the church sign in the photo burned, but the church itself — which is to the left of the sign in the image — was only singed on one side. Everything else appears in working order, Carlson told us. 

"There is no indication the sign or the church were targets of the arsonists," Carlson said. He credited a couple of journalists who saw the fire in the car lot and realized it could spread to the church, dousing flames closest to the building using the church’s rain barrels and piling dirt on sparks using snow shovels from a shed behind the building. 

The Facebook post claims that Bradford Community Church "is a Black church in a Black community with a BLM sign out front."

The church’s sign did say "Black Lives Matter," but Carlson, who is white, said "we are far from a ‘Black’ church." The vast majority of its members — historically and now — are white.

The church is located in the city’s historic downtown area. It’s not really residential, Carlson said, though it is relatively close to what would be considered a Black neighborhood. 

"But I wouldn’t say that we’re in the middle of a Black community," he said. "We’re more in the commerce district."

We rate this Facebook post False.


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No, BLM protesters didn’t burn down a Black church in Kenosha

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