The burned remains of an LGBTQ Pride that flew in a public space on the campus of Cabrillo Community College’s Watsonville campus were discovered by a student on Saturday morning.
A suspect has not yet been identified in the act of vandalism. The college is trying to obtain security footage of the incident.
The college filed a police report and has called on Watsonville Police to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
In response, about 50 college students, staff, and trustees, along with local elected officials, gathered in front of the school on Monday morning for a flag-raising ceremony to replace the burned flag, which had previously flown at the school’s outdoor study space, El Patio, year-round. The new flag is now on display at the front of the campus, along with the American flag.
Adam Spickler, a Cabrillo College trustee and the first out transgender person to hold elective office in California, was among those who attended the flag-raising ceremony.
“It definitely felt like a gut punch and the immediacy that it was students,” Spickler told Salinas-based NBC affiliate KSBW. “It was LGBTQ students who came to campus and found the flag burned. It can be so infuriating and really scary all at the same time.”
Some of the speakers at the flag-raising said it was important to show that members of the college community aren’t afraid of the vandals and will stand strong together.
“Very frankly, I was told, ‘Oh, Steve, you’re not going to run openly gay are you? You haven’t been here long enough. You’re not going to get elected.’ Well, guess what? I’m here,” Cabrillo College trustee Steve Trujillo said. “We need to show the community we are not intimidated by haters. We are not intimidated by hatred. We believe in love. Love always wins.”
Madeline Ciara Aliah, a 16-year-old transgender student who attends high school in Santa Cruz, attended the ceremony with her mother, who also spoke at the ceremony.
“My immediate thought was, ‘Oh another one,’ because there are bills in Texas and there’s flags burning all over. All sorts of stuff going on all over, and it’s quite overwhelming for something to happen so locally,” Aliah told KSBW.
As the ceremony was ending Aliah read aloud a poem she had written the day before.
“I bless you and I’m praying for you. I hope you can turn it around,” Aliah said, addressing the person behind the vandalism. “Give it some time to think, man.”
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