The University of Maine’s Pride Week was kicked off Monday afternoon with the annual raising of a rainbow-colored flag, a symbol of the diversity of the LGBTQ community on the university’s mall.
Less than 24 hours later — sometime between 8 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. Tuesday, the flag was cut from its hoist and the steel flagpole was bent, nearly to a right angle. By 1 p.m. Tuesday, the flagpole was replaced.
According to a post from group member and fifth-year psychology student Charles Chapin on the “Announcements & Alerts” folder of the university’s FirstClass network, there will be another flag-raising ceremony at 12 p.m. Tuesday.
“This act of vandalism, at first, may seem like some drunken joke. The truth of the matter is that whether or not the perpetrators know this, this is an attack on a group of students and an entire community,” Chapin wrote. “Please come out and show everyone that UMaine will not stand for this type of intolerance. We hope to see you all there.”
The flag is raised for one week during every semester — in the fall for “Coming Out Week” and in the spring for Pride Week.
Jeff Stott, the vice president of UMaine’s Wilde Stein Alliance for Sexual Diversity, said the theft’s effect on campus diversity could be damaging.
“We talk about this being a tolerant campus, but what are freshmen going to take away from seeing the flag stolen?” he said. “It has become a pattern. This shouldn’t be a new thing to people.”
Amanda Kenney, a fourth-year journalism student and Wilde Stein member, said the theft may not be an attack on the LGBTQ community, but is disturbing nonetheless.
“All it takes is one person to be an asshole,” she said. “Someone could have been drunk. It’s not necessarily an agenda.”
Stott said the pole, flag and hoist were worth approximately $550. It was not clear as of Tuesday afternoon if Wilde Stein would have to incur the cost of a new flag or flagpole. UMaine police are investigating.
According to The Maine Campus, the flag was last stolen in November 2009 after being raised in protest of that month’s people’s veto of a state law signed by then-Gov. John Baldacci that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry.
Then, the sign was found attached to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity sign and returned to Zachary Knox, the Wilde Stein president at the time.