For the third time in two weeks, a rainbow Pride flag was stolen from outside a Virginia Tech religious center. This time, however, the LGBTQ symbol was replaced by two Confederate flags — one in front of the building, where the previous flag stood, and another in the back.
“This one was just an escalation when the Confederate flag was put up in its place," the campus minister, Bret Gresham, told NBC News.
Gresham, who runs the Wesley Center, the off-campus building from which the three Pride flags were taken, said the school’s LGBTQ students are “hurt, saddened and scared" following the weekend's incident.
“My No. 1 concern is the students and making sure they feel they have a safe environment to come, to live out their faith and be affirmed in who they are,” he said.
The Wesley Center has displayed a Pride flag for years and keeps extras on hand should one need to be replaced, according to Gresham. He said he noticed the latest vandalism Saturday morning and reported the incident to the Blacksburg Police Department.
The Blacksburg PD confirmed that it took a larceny report from the campus ministry over the weekend. According to Lt. J.M. Teubert, a department spokesperson, the case has been assigned to the criminal investigations unit.
On Tuesday, Gresham said he hopes someone will come forward with information after seeing photos of the incident posted on social media. The Wesley Center shared images of the vandalism (with the Confederate flag blurred out) on its Facebook account, saying, “This hate crime goes against all that we believe, and we want our LGBTQ+ community to know that we will always love, support, and embrace you with open arms."