A Washington, D.C. resident says he replaced his Pride flag two times after someone kept tearing it down and set it on fire.
In the early morning hours of June 11, the Sunday of DC Pride weekend, Jason Ramsey was awakened by the sounds of his dog barking and by the ping of texts on his phone. His neighbor and dog had been trying to alert him to the presence of a stranger in his front yard.
Rushing downstairs and opening his front door, Ramsey caught a glimpse of a person running down the maze-like, two-story staircase to his home. The person had grabbed the Pride flag, which had been hanging on a flagpole on the landing midway between the sidewalk and his front door, and had thrown the flag onto the ground at the base of the stairs.
Ramsey began yelling at the thief to stop when he saw the flag catch fire, prompting the vandal to run away. Ramsey’s neighbor, who arrived just seconds after the arsonist fled, then extinguished the fire by pouring water on it.
The entire incident was caught on Ramsey’s Ring doorbell camera but failed to capture the perpetrator’s face due to the angle of the camera.
“It really seemed very targeted in a way that I thought had to be informed by some sort of bigotry,” Ramsey told Metro Weekly. “And that stung. [In] one of the gayest cities in the country to have this kind of thing happen just seems so out of place.”
Following the flag-burning incident, the Petworth resident put up a replacement flag, only to have that one stolen. It remains unclear whether the arsonist was the same person who stole the replacement flag.
“The fact that [someone] literally targeted the Pride flag during Pride month does definitely feel like it was something kind of informed by bigotry in a way,” he said.
However, Ramsey did not report either incident to police.
“For property crime, I am not going to the cops because we have enough problems with police violence and other things like that. And property is not worth it,” he explained. “Even though it did feel a bit like a hate crime that I thought did warrant investigation by the police, I knew there was not enough evidence to actually do anything about it. MPD has got a lot of other stuff on their hands. I didn’t think they’d even work the case.”
Each year during Pride season, there are often reports of incidents of Pride flags being vandalized or stolen, due to some people taking offense at the flag and what it represents. Recently, three men were caught on surveillance video ripping Pride flags off a fence near the Stonewall National Monument in New York City, which includes the historic Stonewall Inn, considered the birthplace of the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement.
Earlier this month, someone spray-painted anti-gay slurs onto an LGBTQ-supportive church in Boston. That followed an incident in Morristown, New Jersey in May, in which a separate LGBTQ-supportive church had its sign vandalized after erecting rainbow banners on its lawn in celebration of Pride Month.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, sexual orientation-based hate crimes have been on the rise in Washington within the past three years. In 2021, there were 38 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation. In 2022, it rose to 45 hate crimes. This year, there have been 17 sexual orientation-based hate crimes reported to MPD as of May 31.
After his replacement Pride flag was stolen, Ramsey purchased another Pride flag and hung it in the same place, almost in an act of defiance. He wanted to make sure that people understand and remember the significance and symbolism of the Pride flag – and, by extension, the origins of the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement – especially during times when state legislatures are criminalizing trans-affirming healthcare and drag queens.
“Especially nowadays with all the anti-trans stuff that’s going on in state legislatures, it just feels like a time where you can kind of feel the rights being pulled back by non-secular folks at the state government level,” Ramsey said.
He added: “The fact that the LGBTQ community has made such strides in the last five or six decades and managed to attain more rights, more acceptance, and more broad popularity is something that, you know, we should be proud of, and we should continue to keep working toward.”
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