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Arsonist targeted Lithuanian gay director in a possible homophobic attack

Arsonist targeted Lithuanian gay director in a possible homophobic attack

The corridor outside the apartment of gay director Romas Zabarauskas was set on fire on the night of 2 September.

Just weeks after arsonists attacked the headquarter of Lithuanian LGBT group by setting the door on fire, another arson took place in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

Openly gay director Romas Zabarauskas had simply put up a rainbow flag on the balcony of his apartment.

Someone set the whole corridor outside his apartment on fire on the night of 2 September. Zabarauskas recalled waking up to the sound of firemen knocking on his neighbor’s door.

Refusing to file a possible anti-LGBTI hate crime motive, the law enforcement officer instead suggested to ‘take off the flag before the whole house has burnt’.

‘Take the flag down’

Zabarauskas placed a rainbow flag on his balcony in solidarity with LGL. | Photo: supplied

Although it was originally believed that it was Zabarauskas’s doorstep, the director later clarified that it was his neighbor’s door. His apartment is located on the same level.

Zabarauskas believes his being part of the LGBTI community might be the reason behind it.

‘My neighbor’s apartment was set on fire on Saturday night, not mine. However, we suspect it could be linked to me, as I recently placed a rainbow flag in my balcony to express solidarity with the LGBT organization LGL and its leader who were both victims of similar arsonist attacks weeks ago,’ he wrote.

He also explained how the police reacted to the incident.

‘The policemen reacted not professionally to my initiative to explain them this context during that night,’ he told Gay Star News.

‘And the policewoman told me repeatedly to take down the flag “before the whole house burns down.”‘

Lithuania expresses support to the LGBTI community

Close up of Romas Zabarauskas looking into the camera.
Director Romas Zabarauskas has been living in that apartment with his boyfriend since 2015. | Photo: supplied

‘We’re trying to turn it into a positive experience,’ Zabarauskas told Gay Star News.

He says he and his boyfriend are receiving support from the whole community, unfurling rainbow flags and tweeting with the hashtag #LGBTdraugiškaLietuva (‘LGBT friendly Lithuania’).

The director is also encouraging people to buy more flags.

‘I realized it’s not that easy to buy one in Lithuania, and it’s expensive to ship. So immediately the day after the fire, I initiated a fundraiser overnight. Lithuanians raised enough funds to buy and ship 500 rainbow flags and distribute them for free,’ he explained.

‘Lithuania is a free country and no one can tell me or anyone else what to showcase in their window.’

Zabarauskas also said that Mark Adam Harold, a Vilnius City Council Member, placed a rainbow flag at the municipality in solidarity.

After his official complaint, he pointed out police is now looking into homophobia as a possible motive for the attack.

Lithuanian LGBT activists are in danger

Vladimir Simonko, co-founder of the Lithuanian Gay League believes the pattern of similar arson attempts sows fear amongst the LGBT community. Furthermore, he said these attacks expose the police’s inadequate response.

‘LGBT activists are in danger,’ said Simonko.

‘Today it’s the LGBT community. Tomorrow it might be another one.’

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