Occupy Sandy Church Damaged In Suspicious Fire

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 25 2012 8:26 AM

Occupy Sandy Church Damaged In Suspicious Fire

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Volunteers help distribute meals and supplies at an Occupy Sandy center on November 22, 2012 in the Staten Island borough of New York City

Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images.

The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, a historic church in Brooklyn currently doubling as Occupy Sandy HQ, was the victim of an apparent arson attack early Sunday morning.

The church at 520 Clinton Avenue, rebuilt in 1914 after a fire, stored supplies and donations for relief work across the city, including thousands of toys for children in the hardest-hit areas. The alleged arsonist took gasoline stored at the church for a Rockaways holiday party, poured it around the front entrance of the building, and set it on fire, according to the New York Post. Three volunteers were in the church at the time of the fire. They escaped uninjured and called 911.

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The New York Times spoke to church curate the Rev. Christopher Ballard, who said that the building suffered "significant damage" from the fire. The wooden doors at the front entrance burned, and the foyer is damaged. The sanctuary escaped relatively unharmed, however. Most of the donations stored in the church had been cleared for Christmas services, but those remaining were unscathed as well. As for motivation, both police and church officials don't have an explanation yet. “Somebody decided to take those canisters, dump them on the doors of the church and set the gas on fire,” Ballard said, adding, "We don’t know why someone would do this, what darkness is in someone’s heart.”

Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, began relief work in the city soon after Hurricane Sandy hit in late October. The mutual aid cleanup effort received a lot of praise for outshining the response of larger organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross in many neighborhoods with the worst damage.

On Monday, Occupy Sandy volunteers turned their attention to cleaning up the damaged church, which still held Christmas Eve services, DNAInfo reported.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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