Surveillance footage showed two men running away from a Baltimore business front after setting fire to a rainbow flag on display last Saturday (4 May).
The store in question is Same Gender Love, a boutique owned by Marva Laws in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood.
Detective Jeremy Silbert confirmed the city’s police opened a hate crime investigation after an employee reported it. The department’s LGBTI liason is also involved with the investigation.
Though no one in the shop said they saw the culprits in question, Merrick Moses, board chair of the Pride Center of Maryland, had been in Same Gender Love at the time of the incident.
Moses was filming an episode of Queer Conversations when it happened. Both he and LaToi Williams, the show’s host, ran outside and found the remnants of the flag.
‘That flag represents not just a people but it also represents a struggle of a people to live as human beings,’ Moses commented. ‘The flag… shows our strength and the promise of our country, that all people are created equal.
‘When someone burns this flag, it says we don’t respect your humanity and we think you don’t belong here.’
Still fighting to make it a safe place
‘My first reaction was full of emotion,’ Laws told the Baltimore Sun. ‘I was very angry because this is mine. It belongs to me. Of course I took it personally.
‘My second reaction, after I think about it, is I feel sorry for whoever did it. What statement are you making, other than showing that somebody ignorant walked past my store?’
Laws isn’t letting this incident frighten her away, however. She wants to make it a safe place for everyone in the LGBTI community and is working on rebranding the store now.
‘Our store was built and created on love,’ Laws explained. ‘That’s why I’m rebranding. I want to be completely inclusive. Love is love — period.’
Love Is Love is the store’s new name and Laws is hosting a new event there on 9 June.
GSN reached out to the Baltimore Police Department for further comment.