A Methodist ministry at Virginia Tech has been flying rainbow pride flags for years and vandals tearing them down has been an ongoing issue. But in the latest incident, instead of just tearing them down, the vandals replaced them with Confederate flags.
Wesley at Virginia Tech, a United Methodist ministry at the public university in Blacksburg, Virginia, said in a Facebook post that two rainbow flags were removed from their usual spot on Friday and replaced with two Confederate flags. They blurred the Confederate flag in the post.
“Our Pride flags have been torn down before, but this active display of hate is unacceptable and malicious,” the ministry wrote in the Facebook post.
“As always, we strive to make Wesley a safe and affirming place for all people,” the center wrote. “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.”
Wesley minister Bret Gresham told CNN that this is the third time the flags have been taken in recent weeks. Gresham said they are unsure if it’s the same person or people, but the Blacksburg Police Department and the university have been very helpful in trying to catch the vandals.
“We want to be a grace-filled community for people to feel safe and supported in faith or question or doubt, whatever that may be,” Gresham said.
The ministry asked that anyone with information please contact the Blacksburg Police Department. Gresham said he hopes that police can find out who is doing this for peace of mind and to deter anyone from doing it again.
CNN has reached out to the Blacksburg Police Department for comment but has not heard back yet.
Virginia Tech released a statement saying it was “deeply saddened” by the vandalism. The school has made “tremendous progress” toward building a “more thoroughly diverse and inclusive university,” the statement said.
“Yet incidents like this remind us that the journey to equity and social justice — whether in our community or others across the country — will be long and hard-fought,” the statement said. “Our community’s strong and swift reaction to this incident gives me confidence in the culture we’re building and our shared commitment to see our vision through.”
Wesley is not the only organization to hit with this kind of vandalism. Flag removal has been an ongoing problem, Gresham said.
In May, when relations between Israel and Palestinians were high, flags from Middle Eastern countries that were flown as a symbol of unity were stolen from the school’s Jewish organization, CNN affiliate WSLS reported.
“It’s crazy how just one little act of taking a flag, and people don’t always realize the repercussions or the assumptions or effect that it could have on other marginalized or minority groups,” Susan Kurtz, the executive director of Hillel at Virginia Tech, told WSLS.
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