By Anh Lê
A hate crime against an African American church occurred right here in San Francisco’s Bayview District when St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church was vandalized late last month.
Vandals broke into the church, either late Aug. 27 or early Aug. 28, and spray painted the walls with racist, homophobic and religious graffiti. They gouged the church’s interior walls, ripped and poured bleach on the pew cushions, and damaged furniture and computer equipment.
Two large mirrors behind the pulpit were smashed. The pulpit was defaced with paint. The pastor’s office was vandalized.
St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church has served the San Francisco community for the past 23 years. Most of the 125 people who attend the church reside in the Bayview and Hunter’s Point. Some live in the Western Addition.
“We want to give full support to the people who go there. It’s traumatic, what happened at the church. The church is hurt, the people who go there, their operations. It is a hate crime,” said Raj Vaswani, captain of the San Francisco Police Department’s Bayview Station.
Willie Fenroy, a deacon at the church, said that the church had never been attacked before.
Beverly Taylor, a deaconess at the church, said, “The attack on our church, that’s the devil at work. The building does not belong to us. It’s the Lord’s house. They attacked the Lord when they attacked the Lord’s house.”
“In the Scriptures, the Lord says, ‘A weapon used against me will never stand. I will repay them,’” she said.
The vandalism has forced the church to suspend its food pantry work, one of its ministries, Taylor said.
“The Lord will help us to reopen the food pantry,” Taylor stated with conviction.
Officer Alvie Esparza, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department, said, “We will look for the individual or individuals who vandalized this church. When we find that person or the people involved, we will arrest them. This type of behavior is not condoned in San Francisco.”
I call on my fellow San Franciscans to confront and address the racism in our own backyard, and to do what we can to aid our sisters and brothers at St. Paul Tabernacle.
Ask law enforcement officials to address the vandalism and hate crime, and bring the perpetrators to justice. Call on the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the F.B.I to investigate.
Request the City of San Francisco to install security and surveillance cameras on the streets near churches.
Call on our faith leaders — Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist — and San Franciscans of all backgrounds to declare that we stand with our sisters and brothers at St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church and that we will not tolerate any act of hate crime or violence.
Call on Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and state legislators to issue statements condemning the vandalism and hate crime against St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church, and affirming that such hate crime against a house of worship will not be tolerated.
Contribute donations and help the church with repairs so that St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church can carry on its ministry in the Bayview. A work party is being planned for Sept. 12 at 10 a.m.
Anh Lê has worked in the African American, Vietnamese American, and other communities in the Bay Area for many years.