LGBT pride flag vandalized in downtown Anchorage
Drew Phoenix says he received a disturbing call this morning from one of Identity, Inc.’s volunteers.
“He had ridden his bike past here at 5 a.m. and saw that our flag had been burned,” said Phoenix, executive director of Identity, Inc. “And there were remains, the charred remains were on the sidewalk.”
This isn’t the first time the organization’s flag, which flies above Fifth Avenue in downtown Anchorage, has been vandalized, Phoenix says. The organization took the flag down after it was vandalized twice last year. Phoenix says they raised a new flag in time for 2015 Alaska PrideFest, which took place earlier this month.
The incident falls on the heels of the observance of LGBT Pride Month at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on June 19 — the first ever on the Anchorage military base.
“I think it’s pretty interesting timing that it’s happening now,” said Phoenix of Tuesday’s incident.
The Anchorage Fire Department, along with the Anchorage Police Department, initially responded to the report of an arson. Phoenix, however, says this is a targeted hate crime, as the LGBT pride flag flies alongside a number of other flags on Fifth Avenue — but those flags were untouched.
“It’s not random; it’s a hate crime,” said Phoenix. “Anytime you have vandalism combined with bias, it’s a hate crime.”
This week could also be a significant one for the LGBT community nationwide, as the Supreme Court is expected to rule on marriage equality. In the meantime, with no surveillance footage and no suspect information available to hand over to authorities, Phoenix says he’s worried about his local community’s safety.
“What’s gonna be the next thing?” he asked. “People may think, ‘Oh, this is no big deal. It’s just a burned flag, but this is how hate crimes begin — in small ways and then they grow into bigger things.”
Phoenix says he’s reached out to the FBI about the incident and is expecting to hear back from investigators shortly.
Sierra Starks and Heather Hintze contributed reporting to this story.