The arrest of a black Charlottean for a planned out hate crime credited to “white America” has turned a Charlotte arson case into fuel for roiling conspiracy theories on social media.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police suspected a black man in the case from the start, after seeing surveillance tape outside the Central Market, an immigrant-operated store in east Charlotte. A window was broken out, a flaming object thrown through the door and a note left behind that credited the fire to white followers of Donald Trump.
The man charged Sunday, Curtis Flournoy, 32, has been arrested five previous times in Mecklenburg County.
So how did a man with a history of marijuana arrests come up with an arson plan that included a typed note that starts: “Our newly elected president Donald Trump is our nation builder for White America. You all know that, we want our country back on the right track. We need to get ride of Muslims, Indians and all immigrants.”
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Headlines in the far right media on Sunday insisted that the hate crime was faked, staged and a hoax, based on their assumption that the suspect had a motive other than driving immigrants out.
“While this may seem like a Trump-related hate crime perpetrated by immigrant-hating white racists,” said the Defiant America, “it was none other than the work of a black man.”
His motive? Civil unrest, according to conservative websites like The Federalist Papers, which called the fire “clearly a hoax hate crime designed to blame white people.”
Said Liberty Unyielding: “Two of the nation’s more vexing domestic problems – deteriorating race relations and immigration – appear to have provided dual motivation.”
The Right Wing News called it “a twofer for hate.”
“Harm the local Indian business people and blame Caucasians for all of it. It may be that the guy just wanted to stir up trouble,” said the site. “Regardless of who is to blame, this will ratchet up tensions even more in that area. Authorities have rightfully labeled this crime a hate crime.”
Still other websites resorted to sarcasm, claiming a “devious” white Trump supporter disguised himself as black.
“POLICE RELEASE VIDEO OF ‘WHITE SUPREMACIST’ COMMITTING CRIME FOR ‘WHITE AMERICA’,” said a headline in Milo.com.
Similarities are being drawn between the Charlotte arson and an incident in Charleston last month, when racist and anti-gay slurs were spray painted on a library named after one of the victims in the Dylann Roof killings at Emanuel AME Church. The suspect eventually arrested by police was a 19-year-old black man.
Charlotte police have not said what motivated the arson at Central Market, which comes at a time when efforts are being made to unite African-American, immigrant and LGBT groups into a single political block in the state. This includes an upcoming May 1 march and business boycott planned at Marshall Park that hopes to show a united front to city leaders.
Flournoy is charged with burning a building of trade, malicious damage by use of an incendiary material, felony breaking and entering, ethnic intimidation and anonymous or threatening letters.
The store, Central Market, is a Nepali Indian store that sells fast food, groceries and gifts, mostly from the Indian subcontinent (Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Bhutan). The store is operated by Kamal Dhimal, a Bhutan refugee.
The nation’s population of people from the Indian subcontinent are currently on alert, after several high-profile killings, including one in Lancaster County last month. The victim in that attack, Harnish Patel, 43, was the owner of a convenience store in Lancaster County. He was found dead of gunshot wounds in the yard of his home on March 2.
A GoFundMe site was set up by Erik Hovind, who hopes to raise $2,500 to cover the damage at the store. He believes the incident was committed by someone “undoubtedly trying to damage race relations and discredit Trump supporters.”
“Lets show Mr. Dhimal what this country TRULY thinks of its immigrants,” said Hovind on the GoFundMe page.