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Vox Sentences: Black churches are burning

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In Louisiana, three churches burned in 10 days, and police have finally arrested a suspect; Nigerian women fight back against sexual harassment.

Suspect arrested in black church fires

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
  • Three historically black churches were set on fire in the span of 10 days, and Louisiana police have finally arrested a suspect: Holden Matthews, 21, who happens to be the son of a deputy sheriff in the district. [Daily Advertiser / Ashley White]
  • The fires are now confirmed as intentionally set and related. Matthews has been arrested on three counts of simple arson, each carrying a maximum 15-year penalty. [NBC News / Erik Ortiz and Phil Helsel]
  • Police said they identified Matthews as the arsonist by tracking down the purchase history of a gas can that was found in the debris. According to his phone GPS, he was also in close proximity to two of the fires. [The Advocate]
  • Police think Matthews was influenced by “black metal,” a music genre that has been associated with church burnings in the past. Matthews spoke favorably about a movie on the Norwegian black metal scene that features Kristian “Varg” Vikernes, a controversial musician who went to prison for setting churches on fire. [BuzzFeed News / Stephanie K. Baer and Brianna Sacks]
  • All the churches Matthews allegedly targeted have been in the community for more than 100 years. The fires are especially disturbing because they are reminiscent of the attacks on black churches in the South during the Jim Crow era. [NYT / Alan Blinder, Richard Fausset, and John Eligon]
  • Although police have yet to determine if the arson counts as a hate crime, the NAACP has called the burnings “domestic terrorism” and expressed concern over the growing racial tensions in the country. [CNN / Josh Campbell, Samira Said, and Ray Sanchez]

Nigerian women protest harassment at street markets

  • Women in Lagos, Nigeria, mobilized to protest the sexual harassment they face at a local market in the Yaba district. The women wore yellow T-shirts and held signs that said “enough is enough” and “stop touching us.” [NPR / Kelechukwu Iruoma]
  • The “Market March” happened in December, with about 20 women protesting at Yaba’s Market. The word “Yaba” and “Market March” became hashtags on Twitter that led to thousands of people showing their support. Even an online petition for better law enforcement on sexual harassment has gained around 23,000 signatures. [Guardian / Linus Unah]
  • Sexual harassment is common in large markets in Nigeria to the point of being almost normalized. Once the demonstrations began, merchants reportedly pelted the protesters with stones and water. They also hurled insults at the women, calling them “jobless” and “prostitutes.” [WMC / Valentine Iwenwanne]
  • According to the Guardian Data Desk’s online survey, market harassment in Nigeria is most prevalent among women ages 21 to 25, and the harassment is highest in the afternoon. [Guardian Nigeria / Torinmo Salau]
  • Movements against sexual harassment that involve social media have spread across Africa in recent years. For example, female university students in Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria have used social media to protest sexual violence by their lecturers. [Reuters / Nita Bhalla and Inna Lazareva]


  • Researchers in the UK want to link your genes to your income. Is it ethical? [Wired / Megan Molteni]
  • Switzerland has apparently tired of stockpiling coffee: The government wants to get rid of its java reserves because it ruled the beans unnecessary for survival. The obligation to have coffee reserves is likely to expire by 2022. [Business Insider / John Miller]
  • In a dramatic gesture, Pope Francis got on his hands and knees and kissed the shoes of South Sudanese leaders while pleading for peace on Thursday. [Fox News / Louis Casiano]
  • Jussie Smollett was spotted on vacation in Hawaii amid the ongoing fallout from an attack on him that police now say he orchestrated. Although the felony disorderly conduct charges against him were dropped, Smollet could still face a lawsuit from the city of Chicago over the money that went into investigating his case. [Page Six / Mara Siegler and Ian Mohr]
  • Netflix is branching out into radio. The streaming platform’s new comedy radio channel, called Netflix Is a Joke, will launch exclusively on SiriusXM beginning April 15. [The Verge / Nick Statt]


“Most of these men see women as objects for pleasure, but it’s a violation of their bodily integrity and abuse of their rights.” [Bose Ironsi, the founder and executive director of the Women’s Rights and Health Project, on harassment at markets in Nigeria]

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