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Cross burnings

In Athens, Tennessee, the FBI will join the local and state investigation into a cross burning at the home of a gay man. The feds are being brought in to help the locals determine whether the burning was a hate crime. (365gay):

If it is, said Sheriff Walter Hickman, it could warrant federal charges.

“Right now we are looking at all angles,” Hickman told the The Daily Post-Athenian newspaper. “It’s a concern because it’s a crime.”

The flaming cross was discovered by Brandon Waters on his front lawn. Waters said that the cross was about 7 feet tall and a hate message bearing homophobic epithets was found nearby.

Down in Florida, we’ve got another “classic” burning, if you want to call it that — an elderly black couple returned home to a cross burning in a bed of flowers. (Local6):

Another story noted that this is the only incident of its kind in recent years that the Sheriff Hickman recalled happining in Meigs County.

A burning cross left in an senior black couple’s front yard in Volusia County, Fla., has prompted a FBI investigation into the apparent hate crime, according to Local 6 News.

John Biven, 75, said he returned to his Oak Hill, Fla., home located on Flamingo Road and discovered the 4-foot-high burning cross planted in a flower bed. “Nobody is afraid,” the victim’s brother, Jiles Smith, said. “Fear is the farthest thing. You can’t frighten people who have been frightened and run off all of their life. Those days are gone forever.”

…”Who would be running around burning crosses and things like that, but people who are uneducated and don’t have common sense and are just plain fools?” Smith said.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, this was the second cross burning this year. The first was on the lawn of an interracial couple in New Smyrna Beach, burned on MLK day. The cross had “KKK” scrawled on its side.

And how about this in Sumpter Township, Michigan:

Around 3:30 a.m., the family of six was asleep when they heard a loud noise outside. They looked out the window and saw what they thought was the mailbox across the street on fire. The 34-year-old woman’s husband grabbed a pitcher of water and went outside to take care of it, but found something terrifying.

“As he got outside it wasn’t a mailbox, it was a cross that somebody had built, put it on a stand facing towards our house,” said the woman who did not want to be identified….”Wooden cross, looked like it was made out of 2 by 4’s. It was like 5 foot tall, had varnish on it. All nailed together. Stand built underneath it so it would stand,” said the woman.

Family members believe they were targeted because they are a mixed family; one child is white, one is black and three are bi-racial. “Just ignorant people is all I can think of. I don’t understand why they would bother us. We don’t bother anybody. We’re the only mixed family right here in this area. We’ve got a good mixture going on and obviously somebody doesn’t like it,” said the woman.

Oh wait, look at what happened recently in Cottondale, Alabama…

Three people riding horses found the cross off Clements Road in Cottondale at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The cross, which was between 12 and 13 feet tall, appeared to have been wrapped in burlap and set on fire.

Whoever did it left the cross in an open area overlooking Interstate 59 and in sight of several truck stops, NBC 13’s Jennifer Hale reported.

“It appears the people who erected that cross meant for it to be seen by a lot of people,” said Lt. Lloyd Baker of the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, here in the Tar Heel state, in Nash County, there’s a weird, apparently escalating situation that started off with a cross burning. (Rocky Mount Telegram):

Another harassing phone call and sugar-filled gas tanks on Monday plagued a Middlesex family that had a cross burned in its yard two weeks ago. Ed and Mary Few told police that a white man called their home at 2 p.m. Monday cursing them and telling them he had put sugar in their gas tanks.

The incident marks the latest in a series of bizarre occurrences since the Fews found a cross burning in their yard June 6 and “KKK” spraypainted on their house the next day. Middlesex police found a white substance around the gas tanks of the cars of Ed Few and his nephew, 18-year-old Jeremy Richardson.

Ed Few said the caller Monday admitted to the cross burning and further threatened the family. “He said he’d burn my house down,” Few said. “He got ill like a wild man.”

There’s a lot of tension in this particular investigation; there has been a focus on Richardson, however it also appears that the Police Chief, Charles Ferrell, initially quickly ruled out the possibility of a hate crime, citing “the cross did not look professional” enough to be a product of the Ku Klux Klan” — whatever that means.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding