A family in Charleston, South Carolina, said their rainbow pride flag was torn down from the front of their house and burned in their driveway last weekend.
“We were taken aback and thought, ‘Wow, somebody must be really bothered by this to go to this end here to do this.’ But we called the police to let them know about it,” the homeowner, who lives with his wife and three young children, told NBC News.
“There's people on our street that have South Carolina flags, United States flags, different college flags, garden flags … obviously the rainbow is what attracted them to ours,” the homeowner, who asked that his name not be printed to protect his family’s safety and privacy, added. “I wouldn't be surprised if the people who did this didn't even know who we were or who lived in the home, that it was just the fact that it was a rainbow flag, and they didn't agree with that.”
After news of the incident spread, a local LGBTQ advocacy group, Alliance for Full Acceptance, started to offer free LGBTQ pride flags to any residents or businesses in the city seeking to “display a flag in solidarity with the affected family and LGBTQ community.”
“So far, we’ve had 200 requests for flags, and we have given so far somewhere between 80 or 90 out,” the group’s executive director, Chase Glenn, said. “It’s really incredible to see the community rally around these folks and the LGBTQ community as a whole.”
Charles Francis, a spokesperson with the Charleston Police Department, confirmed that the homeowners had filed a police report. Francis said the investigation is ongoing, and no suspects have yet been identified.
If investigators conclude the incident is a hate crime, any suspects could be charged under Charleston’s new hate crime ordinance, which was passed in November of last year.
“This is the first test of that,” Glenn said of the new ordinance. “We have a great relationship with the police and, thankfully, they are taking this seriously.”
Even though the homeowners are a heterosexual couple, Glenn stressed that the ordinance punishes those who have the intent to intimidate another person because of their “perceived” sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We want our community to feel safe, and incidents like this don’t help grow that sense of safety,” Glenn said.
As for the homeowner, he said he and his family “are definitely going to get another flag and put it back up there.”
“We hope that all the folks who have been very supportive, who have said kind things to us, we hope if they do feel that way that they do the same and show that support with action and fly a flag themselves,” he said. “I think that would send a strong message to whoever the haters are out there that those views are not shared here, and that those opinions are not those of the majority.”