A Boston affordable housing project for LGBTQ seniors was vandalized with homophobic and threatening graffiti Sunday.
The Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that is leading the housing project's construction, LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc., shared photos of the hateful messages — including "we will burn this" and "the f----- will die by fire" — on Facebook over the weekend.
"We were heartbroken to wake up this morning to the terrible news that The Pryde was vandalized overnight with hate speech and threats spraypainted on virtually every sign," the group wrote in a statement on Facebook, referring to the project's name. "We will not let bullies and cowards stop our work to create safe and welcome affordable housing for our LGBTQ elders. We will not let hate go unchallenged in Hyde Park."
Boston police confirmed with NBC Boston that they were investigating.
The Pryde, which began construction last month, will convert a former middle school in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood into 74 units of mixed-income housing for seniors. It was billed as New England’s first LGBTQ senior affordable housing project, and it is expected to welcome its first residents late next year.
“To see cowards come out under the dark of night and try to intimidate or put their hate on this larger community, it doesn’t represent what we’ve seen throughout this multiyear process, and we are just going to move even faster to get this done,” Mayor Michelle Wu said at an event Sunday held to condemn the vandalism, NBC Boston reported.
Affordable housing options for LGBTQ seniors have become increasingly popular in recent years, as elderly LGBTQ people are less likely to have family or financial support.
LGBTQ adults ages 45 or older report being less likely to have designated caretakers, according to a recent survey by AARP. Almost half of LGBTQ respondents said they were either extremely or very concerned about having enough family and social support as they age, and 52% reported feeling socially isolated.
The vandalism Sunday comes amid a wave of acts and threats of violence against the LGBTQ community across the country.
Most notably, police arrested 31 people at an annual LGBTQ Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, last month on charges of suspicion of conspiracy to riot. Those who were arrested went to the event with gas masks and shields.
But in recent months, threats against LGBTQ people have also picked up in the country's urban centers, which are largely seen as being the most accepting of the LGBTQ community.
Last month, police also arrested a Canadian who alleged to have threatened to shoot up a Pride on the Block event in West Palm Beach, Florida. In April, a man walked into a Brooklyn, New York, bar with a bottle of flammable liquid, poured it on the bar’s floor, lit a match and set the venue ablaze, police said. At a different bar in Brooklyn in February, someone threw a pepper bomb on the dance floor at a party for the Black queer community.
"Hate has no boundary. There are going to be people that have anti-LGBTQ views even in very progressive metropolitan areas," said Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s Cyberlaw Clinic and a transgender rights advocate who has been tracking threats against the LGBTQ community. "Places that are much more open are just more likely to be seen by people who share an intense hatred for the community."
The rise in acts and threats of violence against LGBTQ Americans coincides with a surge in charged rhetoric surrounding LGBTQ issues.
In recent months, conservative lawmakers, television pundits and other public figures have accused opponents of a newly enacted Florida education legislation — which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law — of trying to “groom” or “indoctrinate” children. The word “grooming” has long been associated with mischaracterizing LGBTQ people, particularly gay men and transgender women, as child sex abusers.
"When you start conflating LGBTQ people to pedophiles and being dangerous to children, it's no surprise that people start to take radical actions into their hands and inflicting violence," Caraballo said.