BURIEN, Wash. — An investigation is underway after at least two thieves tore down and stole more than 70 rainbow-colored pride flags in downtown Burien.
Surveillance video caught it all on camera. In the video, a masked man in sunglasses makes his way down 152nd Street in the heart of Burien with a trash bag slung over his shoulder. He makes frequent stops, jumping up and ripping down every rainbow-colored flag along the way, and then walks away.
The video features just one man, but the City of Burien said at least two thieves took part in the early Saturday morning theft spree.
In just 30 minutes, between 4:30 and 5 a.m., the thieves were able to tear down and steal 75 pride flags. Each flagpole was also broken in the act.
“How could you not be mad? I was mad,” said Debra George, Executive Director of Discover Burien, the nonprofit organization that installed the flags in support of Pride Month.
“(The flags) give us that freedom to be who we are as individuals in our community, and to be welcomed and embraced with open arms, and this is just ignorance, in so many different ways, that someone feels that we don’t deserve that freedom … yeah, sad,” George continued.
Burien residents echoed those frustrations to KIRO 7.
“I’m disappointed this happened and it does sadden my heart, but you know what, I’m part of the LGBT community and it’s only going to make me stronger,” said JJ Fusilier.
“This is (the thieves’) way to try to pick on a whole community, but all this does is just bring us back together even stronger. You take something away, we’re going to come back tenfold and that’s what it is,” Fusilier continued.
The theft comes amid the city’s Pride celebrations, which included community Pride festivities, the annual issuance of a proclamation supporting Pride Month from the Burien City Council and the raising of a pride flag over Burien City Hall.
The City of Burien, which has sanctioned the installation of the flags on the publicly owned light poles for several years, was quick to denounce the theft, posting in part:
“The City of Burien strongly declares that acts of hate or intimidation based on someone’s identity have no place in our community.”
In a full statement, the city also shared words of support for the LGBTQIA+ community from Councilmember Hugo Garcia and Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon.
“Burien is a place where we respect and support members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We continue to stand strong with all of you,” said Aragon.
“This kind of hatred towards our LGBTQIA+ community will not be tolerated in Burien,” said Garcia, sponsor of this year’s Pride Month proclamation. “We will only double down our commitments to celebrating with bigger and better Pride events, displays and flags.”
George said Discover Burien is working to replace the flags and hopes to have them back up for the final week of Pride Month, but they need the communities help to fund the replacements.
George said each flagpole was also snapped in the act, and estimates it will cost more than $2,000 to replace everything.
Burien Pride, through Discover Burien, is accepting donations to cover the replacement costs. Any extra money raised will be used to purchase extra flags.
Burien Police are investigating the incident as a theft. Anyone with information is asked to give them a call at 206-296-3311.
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