Salt Lake City police investigate recent wave of Pride flag vandalism

Salt Lake City Utah Pride flag vandalism
Four Pride flags vandalized in Salt Lake City, Utah Photo: SLCPD

Police in Salt Lake City, Utah are investigating the vandalism of at least four LGBTQ+ Pride flags, stating, “Hate has no place in our community.” The four incidents are part of a recent local crime wave targeting such flags.

In a recent tweet, the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) shared four images of various Pride flags that had been vandalized sometime during the early morning hours of July 3. Three of the flags — a Progress Pride flag, a trans flag, and a rainbow flag — had been cut in half, with their bottom halves missing. A fourth flag had been burned into ashes on the ground.

“Here are four photos from the neighborhood,” the SLCPD wrote in its tweet. “The effects of a hate crime or bias crime incident can be devastating and long-lasting for both the individual victims and the larger community. Hate has no place in our community.”

In a longer statement, the SLCPD said that it was “asking for help identifying the person or people responsible for burning multiple Pride flags,” including any locals who might have recorded footage of the suspect(s) on home surveillance or doorbell cameras.

“The Salt Lake City Police Department recognizes our responsibility to investigate hate crimes thoroughly and impartially to hold offenders accountable and ensure justice for survivors,” the SLCPD wrote. “The Salt Lake City Police Department educates its officers and works with our community to recognize, and condemn, hate crimes and works to prevent them from occurring in the future.”

This incident is just part of a recent wave of local criminal activity against Pride flags.

In early June, the non-profit organization Project Rainbow Utah, which works to promote LGBTQ+ visibility throughout the state, said that numerous rainbow flags it had planted locally in people’s yards had been stolen. While the organization predicts that 10% to 20% of its flags will be removed each year, it said that there has been an uptick in their removal this year.

“This year in northern Utah, we staked upwards of nearly 4,000 flags,” Project Rainbow Utah Board Chair Matt Kastellec said. “We’ve seen what feels like an uptick in reports of stolen flags, and especially reports of a couple of bad actors who have been pretty persistent in terms of taking whole neighborhoods of flags. It’s sad for a number of reasons. One, anytime someone is coming onto your property and can take something of yours, that can feel violating.”

“That type of theft of a symbol, that to me is a symbol that we still have work to do,” he added.

In a related incident, police in Holladay, Utah charged three unnamed teenagers for removing Pride flags from people’s homes. Police discovered about 25 flags in a teen’s vehicle during a traffic stop and questioned the teens about them. Sgt. Melody Cutler of the Unified Police Department said that the teens “thought what they were doing was funny.” Police returned all but three of the flags back to their owners.

In mid-June, Monica Zoltanski — the mayor of Sandy, Utah — announced that she herself had installed a rainbow flag at her home to oppose the recent vandalism.

Speaking to KSL-TV, Zoltanski said, “I started to notice over the past few days a lot of reports of the theft of the rainbow flag. It’s not a proud moment for us as a community, and it’s embarrassing, frankly, and I don’t want to see it in Sandy.”

One man’s stolen flag was eventually returned less than 24 hours later with a note that said, “Sorry.”

North Ogden resident Ryan Silver, said of the apologetic thief, “Whether it was out of guilt, or you had a change of heart, or your parents yelled at ya. Whatever it is, thank you. I appreciate it.”

In April, Utah’s largest school district, the Alpine School District, ordered all of its schools to remove Pride flags after parents complained about an Instagram photo showing flags inside a classroom. After the order, students began wearing rainbows to school and complained about anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, the destruction of rainbow flags on campus, and violent anti-LGBTQ+ threats that had occurred on campus ever since.

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