LGBTQ people and families in the Rochester, N.Y., area report that Pride flags outside their homes have been stolen, torn, bent, and, in one case, even burned.
Amanda O’Hearn, a mother in the city’s Highland Park neighborhood, told local CBS affiliate WROC that she arrived home last weekend to find that a Pride flag she had displayed in her backyard had been torn in half by a group of teenagers.
“Then the neighbors saw the kids walk to friends of our’s house and bend their flag pole that also had a rainbow,” O’Hearn said.
A third neighbor of O’Hearn’s said the teens then yelled anti-gay slurs at him and threw rocks at his fence.
“I am sad that it was kids because you know, for them to learn this stuff. It has to be from other kids or from families, so it just made me sad that that message is still there. That there is anti-gay sentiment out there, especially coming from young people,” O’Hearn said. “I don’t know what the kids intended. I don’t think they understand, probably, the depths that that fear can go sometimes when you’re in a community that has faced discrimination for just being who you are.”
O’Hearn shared her experience in a post on Facebook, and said the amount of support she’s received has been overwhelming.
“That’s been super nice to see how many people have come out and said, ‘We support you, we don’t know you but we are 100% behind you, and we’re straight but we are putting out a rainbow flag this month,’ so that’s been really, really lovely,” she said.
In addition to the incidents of vandalism in Highland Park, people in the 19th Ward, in the southwest portion of the city, say they’ve had Pride flags stolen from their porches and yards. One person even had their Pride flag taken down and burned on their front lawn, Karen Emerson, the president of the 19th Ward Community Association told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Emerson says the reports of vandalism have encouraged some to donate 100 different flags, including Pride, Co-exist, and Black Lives Matter flags to the organization so neighbors can pick up and display them on their own properties — a sign of defiance against the vandals.
“We are not going to tolerate that kind of behavior,” Emerson said. “We want to let people know all people are welcomed here — regardless of their ethnicity, their religion, their social status or beliefs.”
For O’Hearn, the Highland Park mother, the vandalism and taunts are an example of how some anti-LGBTQ sentiment still persists, despite many advances in LGBTQ rights generally. She says the best way to promote understanding is by having conversations, both among neighbors and between parents and their children about the importance of tolerance, if not inclusion.
“I would hope that parents, especially with this month being Pride Month, would think about at least bringing up the topic that there are other families that are made up of people that are different than us,” she said.
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