Pride Flags Slashed in Downtown Poulsbo, but City Officials Staunchly Behind Its Desire to be Inclusive

Slashed Pride Flag in Downtown Poulsbo

Pride Month – celebrated in June – is working its way into our social fabric – truly becoming legit. We pretty much know that is the case when major sports teams and venues promote and celebrate this long-in-coming acknowledgement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

Major League Baseball teams like the Seattle Mariners may view their decision to promote the LGBTQ communities as a great marketing opportunity to attract new fans, but it also represents a turn of the switch in society in general. During the entire month of June, the Mariners are celebrating Pride Month with announcements, special events, giveaways, and colors. Rather than the traditional Mariners blue and green colors, you normally see at T-Mobile Park, you’ll notice the scoreboards and signs emblazoned with rainbow colors, representing the LGBTQ movement.

To the uninitiated, Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City and celebrates the LGBTQ community and the fight for equal rights. The Stonewall Uprising began on June 28, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a prominent gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, and the now well-documented riots that followed.

But not everyone is happy with this societal transition. Down the road in Poulsbo last week our next-door neighbor community saw its act of all-inclusiveness ransacked by an unknown vandal who slashed 14 Rainbow-colored Pride Flags that were hung on flagpoles on Front Street, the city’s main avenue. Poulsbo’s City Council had approved purchasing and installing the flags – 17 in all – in the downtown area.

Good Samaritan Logan

The suspect – caught in the act in grainy video taken by a camera mounted on a nearby business – is still at large and could be charged with miscellaneous mischief. “We will not be dissuaded or disheartened by an individual act of vandalism obscuring a community’s act of welcoming inclusion for all,” wrote Councilman Ed Stern in a Facebook post after the June 1 incident.

The Poulsbo Pride Community weighed in as well: “It is with great sadness that we received the report of the vandalized pride banners in downtown Poulsbo just one day after dozens of us gathered to celebrate the flying of pride flags over City Hall, ” Poulsbo Pride noted in a Facebook post. “We eagerly await a report from the police and hope justice is swift. If anything, this act of violence against our community underscores the need for Pride. Pride is not just time for celebration, it’s also a time to raise awareness of issues we might experience being part of the LGBTQIA+. It shines a light on the unique challenges we might face so that we can support each other better. We will not be deterred, we will continue to celebrate the beauty and diversity of our community,”

A fundraiser has been set up, and funds will go to Poulsbo’s Pride in the Park celebration.

“These are much more than just banners,” Natalie Artemyeff, a board member of Poulsbo Pride told KIRO 7. “This is support of a huge demographic of people who live here.”

“I feel angry. I feel frightened,” Pam Keeley, a resident, said. “When you see an act of violence like this, everybody feels impacted to some degree.”

Councilman Ed Stern

This is the second year in a row that the City of Poulsbo has installed flags celebrating Pride Month. Last year’s flags were much smaller and fastened to plastic stakes. “This year the city went full tilt,” said Stern, in an interview, “and put them on metal poles.”

“Last year it was seen as provocative,” Stern explained of displaying the Pride flags, “this year there has been more momentum.  The city itself is walking the talk, being more inclusive … We (as a community) want to be more introspective and self-reflective. Our community is steadily moving into the 21st century.” Poulsbo’s effort at becoming more inclusive, Stern noted, harkens back to a 2019 July 3 incident in which a Native American male, Stonechild Chiefstick, was fatally shot by a Poulsbo policeman at the city’s annual fireworks display. He allegedly was threatening people at the event, brandishing a screwdriver, and “acting out of sorts,” according to eyewitnesses at the event. For a time, that incident created a schism between the city and the Suquamish Tribe.

Meanwhile, some of the Pride Flags along Front Street were sewn back together by a young man named Logan, whose last name we do not have. According to Stern, he showed up the next day and began sewing the torn flags. “The act of one or two people vandalizing (our community) will not undermine the strong position (on the Pride issue) being taken by the whole community,” Stern said. “The city and the community have done this to embrace” the Pride movement.

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