A week after pride flags displayed in the yards of multiple Lovettsville homes were ripped up and stolen, the Town Council on Thursday night condemned the conduct.
Deputy First Class Joshua Edney told the council that the Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the crime, but that no suspects have been identified.
During the meeting, council members joined with several speakers in calling for residents to respect their neighbors and join in building a stronger community.
For some, that means showing respect also for those with differing political views. One resident said it was uncivilized to destroy other people’s property, including his Trump flag that was vandalized previously.
Councilwoman Renee Edmonston said that no one was exempt from hostile behaviors, pointing to an incident when her campaign sign was defaced with the words “hate slate.” She said many cases of willful destruction of property had been reported in town over the past six to nine months. She urged residents to stop demeaning their neighbors and fueling the flames of conflict, and said all residents should be able live without fear of discrimination.
“We are better than this, Lovettsville,” she said.
While condemning violence against residents, Councilwoman Joy Pritz refuted claims by critics that the Town Council has contributed to a hostile climate. She said justice will be served on the perpetrators. “I believe all the residents of Lovettsville are good people and we will show that,” she said.
Vice Mayor Christopher Hornbaker said it was similar attacks a decade ago that prompted him to get involved in the town. Those responsible, he said, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“I condemn these and all acts of hatred to our neighbors,” Councilman David Earl said. He said tearing up a flag is more personal than just destruction of property. A flag represents what that person stands for, he said. “I really like the outpouring of support in this community. … All of this crap has to stop.”
Councilman Tony Quintana said the actions were not reflective of the inclusive town Lovettsville is. The town and the Town Council are striving to be better, he said. “We’re learning and will continue to listen.”
Mayor Nate Fontaine noted that the destruction and theft of pride flags was not a crime on the same level as tromping on Trump flags or vandalizing campaign signs. It wasn’t done by someone who is against rainbows, he said. The mayor pointed out that the LBGTQ community is a protected group under federal law, raising the actions to hate crimes.
While noting that the town’s comprehensive plan calls for Lovettsville to be a loving, inclusive community, town leaders and residents need to move beyond declarations and proclamations to ensure residents feel valued in the community.
“Lovettsville is love and that’s what we need to be,” Fontaine said.