Burning Cross scene

The area around where a burning barrel containing what appeared to be a cross was located is taped off during a joint investigation between the Marion Police Department and the Smyth County Sheriff's Office. 

A Marion man is facing federal charges in connection to a cross burned in the yard of a 17-year-old Black Lives Matter protest organizer. 

James Brown, 40, who is not related to teen protest organizer Travon Brown, was taken into custody by federal authorities Monday afternoon.

According to a joint release from U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen and Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Richmond Division Neil Mathison, James Brown is charged with lying to federal agents about his involvement in the burning of a cross on the family's yard and criminal interference with fair housing based upon the victim's race.

Cross burnings generally fall under the latter code.

"The frightening act at the center of today's complaint-- a racially motivated cross burning-- interfered with the victim's federally protected right to fair housing," Cullen said. "Acts of violence, threats, and other forms of intimidation prompted by racial animus are serious federal crimes, and we will continue to work closely with the FBI to hold offenders accountable."

The Marion Police Department answered the call just hours after the protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement concluded.

According to the release, in the days following the report, investigators working with the FBI learned of James Brown's involvement. When questioned by investigators about his involvement, he allegedly lied.

Witnesses interviewed during the investigation stated that James Brown admitted to the cross burning and used racial epithets when referring to the family.

"The FBI is committed to protecting all citizens, and will aggressively investigate acts of intimidation and violence against anyone based on race or ethnicity," Mathison said. "We thank the [Marion] Police Department, the Smyth County Sheriff's Office and the United States Attorney's Office's Western District of Virginia for their swift and direct attention to this incident."

Travon Brown, who organized the June 13 protest, said during a Sunday press conference at the Marion PD that he would not let the incident deter him.

"Quite frankly, that's not going to stop me from making this movement happen," he said. "That's only going to make me go stronger and harder for my community."

A second protest supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement and the LGBTQ community is scheduled to take place July 3.

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