By Jon Herskovitz
(Reuters) - An internet fundraising campaign to repair a historic black Mississippi church that was burned and spray-painted with "Vote Trump" a week before the U.S. presidential election had raised nearly $200,000 by late Thursday afternoon.
The drive was organized by a self-described "boring office guy" after Tuesday night's fire at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, which has a 111-year history.
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The fire, declared arson, was being investigated as a hate crime. During the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, southern black churches were often targets of burnings and bombings.
"Burning a black church in Mississippi, there is a meaning and a context to that," said Blair Reeves, 35, who set up the GoFundMe.com page. (https://www.gofundme.com/hopewellbaptist)
"As a white southerner who knows the history and the context, this is the least that any human being can do," Reeves said.
Black churches in the U.S. South have long been a base of support for the Democratic Party.
The goal was $10,000, said Reeves, who is from North Carolina and works for a software company in New York. According to the webpage, as of late Thursday afternoon 5,326 people had donated $184,927.
Reeves said he worked with the church's bishop to organize the campaign and that the funds would go into the church's bank account. He said donors have come from supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, supporters of Republican candidate Donald Trump and people around the world.
No arrests have been made but police said on Thursday they had "a person of interest in the case."
"Rather than speculate who did it, how about we agree it was an idiot and the church needs help, regardless? Either make a donation or move along," one donor wrote.
"I am very sorry that this happened. It shouldn't happen in America in 2016," another donor wrote. "I can't give much but I can give a little. I also shared on my Facebook page so others may give, too."
Another person's message read, "I'm a Christian and a Trump Supporter. I hope the pastor will pray for our country and that the donations will help rebuild the church."
"We have your back," another wrote. "Bigotry will not stand in 2016."
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Toni Reinhold)