Racist graffiti, destruction at Belleville church; 19-year-old charged

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by John Knicely / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on August 1, 2012 at 9:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 2 at 8:20 PM

BELLEVILLE, Il. (KMOV) -- The wreckage and racist graffiti is hard to imagine in 2012.  The mess at New Freedom Baptist Church slowly started to go away on Wednesday as dozens of strangers showed up to help clean up.  Charges against five teenagers are expected on Thursday.  It’s unclear if they will be charged with a hate crime.

“I’m at a loss,” said Pastor Dr. William Means.  “My heart is hurt and heavy.”

Means caught the 5 teenagers in the act Tuesday when he showed up at the church during the daytime with contractors.  He told the teens to get on the ground and they did so until Belleville Police arrived.  The teens are ages 12, 15, 16, 16, and 19.  All five are white.  We point that out because of racist graffiti toward African Americans.

Edwin Renth II, 19, was charged with burglary for his role in the incident on Thursday.

“You know, hate is hate,” said Means.  “And it's a crime that needs to be punished.”

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said he will receive the case from Belleville Police on Thursday.  An FBI spokesman said they are aware of case but had no further information.

One of the teenagers showed up at the church Wednesday with his mother to apologize.  The result of his and his friends’ work is extensive.  The damage includes broken glass tables, chairs thrown into walls, and racist and obscene graffiti.

Dozens of other strangers of all races also showed up.  They brought smiling faces and a working attitude.  Several Airmen and Airwomen from Scott Air Force Base lent their helping hands, picking up brooms and vacuum cleaners.  The cleanup process will likely take weeks if not months.

Pastor Means welcomed the community support and expressed his gratitude.

“We’ll probably be by again tomorrow,” said a woman and her husband.

“Thank you so much,” said Means.  “Thank you brother.”

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