“Of course I took it personally.”
A rainbow flag hanging outside an LGBTQ-themed Baltimore store was burned last weekend, Baltimore Sun reports. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Surveillance footage captured two unknown men fleeing the scene after setting fire to the Pride flag at Same Gender Love in the Mount Vernon neighborhood.
“My first reaction was full of emotion,” says Marva Laws, who has owned the boutique for a year. “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?”
A hate crime investigation was opened after a Same Gender Love staffer reported the burning flag, according to Det. Jeremy Silbert, a police spokesman. The Baltimore Police Department’s criminal intelligence unit is working with Central District officers and the department’s LGBTQ liaison in the investigation.
Laws, who was not at the shop during the incident, instructed the employee to replace the flag immediately. She says parents often come to Same Gender Love seeking cards and advice after their children come out.
Pride Center of Maryland board chair Merrick Moses was filming an episode of Queer Conversations, a digital series celebrating minorities, inside the shop while the flag was burned.
“That flag represents not just a people but it also represents a struggle of a people to live as human beings,” Moses says. “When someone burns this flag, it says we don’t respect your humanity and we think you don’t belong here.”
Laws is changing her store’s name to Love Is Love and hosting a June 9 event in an effort to make the shop more welcoming to people who do not identify as LGBTQ. “Our store was built and created on love,” she says. “That’s why I’m rebranding. I want to be completely inclusive. Love is love—period.”