The FBI is investigating an attack on a church in California that has been labelled a "hate group" because of its condemnatory views towards the LGBT community. The First Works Baptist Church in El Monte was rocked by an explosion in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Police say that when they attended the scene, smoke was coming out the windows of the building and it had been covered with graffiti.
"It appeared that the walls to the church had been vandalized as well as all the windows," El Monte police Lt. Christopher Cano said on Saturday. "[The windows] appeared at first to be smashed, then we realized that the windows were not smashed, that they had actually blown out from some type of explosion." The police confirmed that no one had been injured in the blast.
In a tweet, the FBI called the incident an "IED attack" and urged anyone with information to come forward.
The church's pastor Bruce Mejia, who is known for his inflammatory and offensive language, said that the attack will not stop his church from meeting together.
"It’s not going to really deter us from doing what we always do,” he told the New York Times. “We’re not afraid of this."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis condemned the attack, saying that "violence is never the answer, even in response to hate speech".
"Although we do not yet know the motive, am I aware of the anti-LGBTQ+ and misogynistic sermons given by the pastor of the First Works Baptist Church; and my office has referred concerning matters pertaining to the pastor to the County's Human Rights Commission, who has been working in collaboration with the City of El Monte to deescalate the situation.
"I value inclusivity, diversity, and equality. I also support the right to peacefully protest; however, this attack is wrong and it is dangerous. I urge city leaders, church leaders, and civic leaders to come together and work together to address hate issues in our community."
A petition calling for the mayor of El Monte to expel First Works Baptist Church from the city due to its views on the LGBT community reached more than 15,000 signatures.
The group behind the petition, Keep El Monte Friendly, also condemned the attack, saying that they "never promote, encourage or condone any violence or acts of harm".
"We kindly encourage everyone to not engage with violence and to not fight hate with hate," they added. "Again, Keep El Monte Friendly was created to unite the community and create a safe space for all. We will continue to progressively overcome this struggle through peace."