Fire destroys Bay County site of meetings held by a hate group

HAMPTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A Bay County furniture store that once was the site of meetings held by an anti-Semitic hate group was destroyed by a fire early Monday, officials said.

The hate group, organized by Christian Identity teacher James P. Wickstrom, met at the Marquiss Quality Furniture store for about three years. Wickstrom moved to Tennessee in June 2003, but returned to the area a few months ago.

Hampton Township firefighters told WSGW-AM in Saginaw that they could see heavy smoke and fire coming from the building, located in this community near Bay City about 115 miles northwest of Detroit, when they arrived about 2 a.m. EDT Monday. Fire officials said the fire gutted the building.

No one was available Monday morning at the fire department to discuss details of the fire with The Associated Press.

Because of the religious aspect of the building’s use, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, will help investigate the fire, officials said.

A man who answered the telephone at a listing for Wickstrom hung up without commenting.

The Christian Identity movement espouses the doctrine that whites are God’s chosen people.

Wickstrom preaches a message, using Bible passages, that is strongly pro-white and anti-Jewish. He openly calls for violence against Jews.

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