Did "Black Lives Matter and Antifa" set fire to a Catholic church in Minneapolis? No, there is no evidence the historic church was set ablaze by protesters or activists in the same city where the Derek Chauvin murder trial was taking place.
A fire broke out at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church on April 19, 2021, at about 7 p.m. local time. The location was nearly 3 miles away from the downtown area where the protesters were. There is no evidence that the blaze was set by anyone, including by protesters. The investigation has so far not been deemed arson, the Minneapolis Police Department told Lead Stories.
The claim appeared as a post (archived here) on Instagram on April 20, 2021. It opened:
A preview for what is to come after the Chauvin verdict. Not even churches are safe from the mob in Minneapolis. Sickening. @evankilgore
Social media users saw this on Instagram:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Apr 21 12:09:45 2021 UTC)
"There are no indications that the fire is associated with any civil unrest at this time," said Melanie Rucker, assistant chief of administration and the public information officer for the Minneapolis Fire Department, according to The Catholic Spirit, the official publication of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The video of a church burning shows the text, "BREAKING: BLACK LIVES MATTER AND ANTIFA SET CATHOLIC CHURCH ON FIRE IN MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA DOMESTIC TERRORISM IN AMERICAN STREETS."
The post was published on the Instagram account @republicanparty, which explains, "This is not the official account for the Republican Party." The Republican National Committee Instagram account is @GOP.
A GoFundMe set up by the church made no mention of arson.
According to KSTP-TV reporter Ryan Raiche, who was at the scene of the fire, the church is approximately a 13-minute drive between the two locations.
To be clear: this is a 13 minute drive from that protest downtown. There is no indication this was intentionally set. Chair of church just told me he thinks it may have started near furnace. It's a 105 year old church.-- Ryan Raiche (@ryanraiche) April 20, 2021
Priest consoling members of the church. AGAIN: There is no indication this has anything to do with the unrest. pic.twitter.com/8mac8Iu3LE-- Ryan Raiche (@ryanraiche) April 20, 2021
Fox 9 reported that protesters were marching in downtown Minneapolis on April 19, 2021, not near the church.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the scene and is investigating the fire, as is standard procedure for incidents at houses of worship, wrote Ashlee J.L. Sherrill, St. Paul Field Division public information officer, in an email to Lead Stories on April 21, 2021.
The Minneapolis Fire Department posted a series of tweets about the fire and made no mention of protesters being in the vicinity of the church.
Structure Fire - Crews have lines laid to a 2-story church with a large steeple on the 2200 block of 5th St. NE. They have heavy fire showing from the rear and in the cockloft of the building.-- Minneapolis Fire (@MinneapolisFire) April 20, 2021
Lead Stories has reached out to the Minneapolis Fire Department for comment and will update the story when one is received.