The Blacksburg Police Department in Virginia is investigating reports of Rainbow Flags that were torn down and replaced with a Confederate flag at Wesley at Virginia Tech, a United Methodist Ministry near the public university.
According to officials, suspects removed the Pride Flags from outside the building’s entrance on August 7 and instead put up Confederate flags — a known symbol of hate against communities of color, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups in the US. Wesley at Virginia Tech has also been exposed to a wave of similar anti-LGBTQ incidents since they began flying the flags. In a statement, the ministry condemned the latest act of vandalism as “malicious” and “unacceptable.”
The university continued, “As always, we strive to make Wesley a safe and affirming place for all people. 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.”
Reverend Bret Gresham, a minister at Wesley, told the Roanoke Times that the flags had been removed multiple times this month, though Gresham said it’s unclear if the same people are targeting the Pride Flags or if there are new perpetrators.
“As a community, we’re about forgiveness,” Gresham told the Roanoke Times. “Just please don’t do it again. Respect our building; respect our students.”
No arrests have been made, but the police department is investigating the incident as “a crime of larceny and intimidation,” reports the Roanoke Times. The school also denounced the removal of the Pride Flags, saying it “does not reflect who we are at Virginia Tech.”
The university added, “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. 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.”