“Welcome to friendly El Monte” is the slogan of the San Gabriel Valley city where a DIY bomb placed in First Works Baptist Church exploded early Saturday morning. The force of the blast shook the ground, turning the church windows into a bed of ground glass that shimmered along Tyler Avenue, the very place where members of Keep El Monte Friendly, a coalition of local activists and organizers who oppose the bigotry peddled by First Works’ pastor, Delfin Bruce Mejia, had planned to stage a Sunday protest. Stunned neighbors emerged to investigate as sirens wailed, smoke billowed, and storm clouds approached.
By sunrise, garlands of yellow tape restricted access to the 2600 block of Tyler Avenue. There would be no Sunday protest. Instead, there would be an investigation. Beneath a gray sky, FBI men patrolled the damp streets. Cops huddled under tarps, hiding from the drizzle. First Works Baptist Church, an anti-LGBTQ evangelical organization identified by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, was finally being taken seriously.